What Do You Think Of Gil Shaham's Playing Overall?

February 1, 2004 at 01:51 AM · Hello all,

around a week ago, I was listening to cbc one morning, and heard Valse-Scherzo, Op.34, by Tchaikovsky. Gil Shaham played it and i thought it was very very good. I don't know if it is a hard piece or not but it sounded pretty hard. i especially liked his sound and how effortless the technique sounded.

Anyways what are some opinions out there about him? like anything.

thank you all for reading this!

have a nice day!


February 1, 2004 at 01:52 AM · Though I haven't heard him in a while, I like his playing a lot. Beautiful playing. And his Wieniawski cd is great.

February 1, 2004 at 02:07 AM · Love everything about Gil Shaham.

February 1, 2004 at 04:05 AM · I love his sound: great tone, vibrato and expression. Sometimes he is lacking in agression so I dont usually like him for virtuoso material but he always plays with incredible beauty. Without a doubt he is one of the greatest violinists I have ever heard. I love his Sibelius!

February 1, 2004 at 02:32 PM · what do you mean the choking sound? i don't get what you mean.

February 1, 2004 at 08:27 PM · i love shaham, i think he could dig in a little more sometimes, he should watch perlman, but you really can't fault gil for anything.

February 3, 2004 at 11:47 AM · Many of you may disagree, but I don't like Shaham very much in general. It seems often to me, that his violin isn't strong enough, so he forces to much. He has also problems in pure intonation and what I can not stand are his glissandi, always this glissandi (isn't he able to play shifts without slides?)

And his tempos are simply too fast, the first movement of his tchaik for example (even for him) or the first movement of the Brahms. The third movement of the Brahms is quite nice, but - intonation.

But I must admit, that he plays the Sibelius like nobody else. It's my favorite recording.

February 3, 2004 at 01:37 PM · O~Shaham is a very unique violinist among the violinists of the new generation. He is the one who are going to soar, I bet. His intonation seldom has problems. His glissando.....well, being able to play shifts without a gliss is what every violinist manages to do. I guess he is trying to give some style to his playing. Yes, I do agree that he is not the kind that forces his violin too much with all those stretches. He is the kind that plays things with elegance. Elegance or nobility would be the word for his playing. Maybe that's too dainty, so his playing for some vigorous music may not really be that enough. His Sibelius is of course good! Try his Carmen Fantasy (Sarasate). The fourth movement is very adventurous. (The backward gliss is GREAT!)

February 3, 2004 at 05:48 PM · I generally like the way he plays, although he is not one of my favorites violinists. I saw him play the Tchaik concerto at the Hollywood Bowl 3 years ago while it was raining, and it was amazing! His intonation, tempi, etc. were right on the money. Even though the stage had a huge extended umbrella so that the rain would not hit the stage, the air was still very clammy and wet. With the weather conditions as they were, it never affected his playing.

February 3, 2004 at 06:11 PM · my teacher was at julliard with him for a year, and said he was the most talented child he'd ever seen. I believe he was 10 at the time.

February 3, 2004 at 06:00 PM · Hello all,

I think Gil Shaham is, of course, a good violinist. But that is about it. I agree with some of N.C's points. Personally, I dislike the instrument he plays on. It does not allow his vibrato to shine through, and as such a flat, almost forced sound emerges. His technique is also not really remarkable to my ears. Good, but that's it. There is nothing except maybe his Faure and Prokofiev albums that I think I would seriously purchase. His Moses Fantasy was played well, but his instrument's hindrances are even clearer on the G-string. So, overall, he is good, not great or distinctive. Besides, his releases start at mediocre, always hinting that there are better discs to buy. And N.C., this may be my personal bias, but I lose respect for performers who can't do the double stop scale after the high F# in the third movement of the Sibelius in the correct time allotted. He is playing catch up on top of the fact that his vibrato from string to string is inconsistent on that darned instrument of his! The fact that he has to press so hard even twists his intonation. Try Mutter, Perlman or the more subdued but excellent Kavakos. :)

February 3, 2004 at 10:15 PM · I have to agree with certain points that NC and Dwayne have made.

Firstly, I don't like Gil Shaham's violin much either. This is of course my subjective opinion, which is why the actual sound an instrument makes does not affect it's value. Gil obviously loves it, so good for him.

On to less subjective matter. I recently bought his Faure album, which is his latest release. There are some good musical ideas in this compilation, and Gil takes great pains to add variety to the repeats. They are good performances, but they are not great performances. Unfortunately, as stated by N.C, he does have an intonation problem, at least in this particular recording. Many of the notes he plays are - quite simply put - ever so slightly flat. The more times I hear him playing flat notes, the more annoying this characteristic of his playing becomes. Not only is his playing of flat notes quite irritating to me as a listener, but it actually changes the perceived tone colour and brightness of his violin. If he played in tune better, or even played slightly sharp all the time, I think a lot of the complaints people have about his violin would also diminish.

February 4, 2004 at 06:47 PM · listening to him now i dont think the notes are exactly flat, it just sounds like maybe the violin needs to brighten up a bit, maybe differnet strings or something.

February 4, 2004 at 09:22 PM · I think Shaham will be "remembered" as the leader of his generation - so will repin...but vengerov wont as much.

February 6, 2004 at 07:05 PM · I completely disagree Dan. I sincerely believe that Shaham will not be remembered in the long run for much. Looking at violinists who have made it into the annals of history, each one has made some type of mark on something. Be it the virtual "perceived" prefection of Heifetz, or the unbelievable virtuosity of Ruggiero Ricci. Shaham hasn't contributed a lick in my opinion, especially to be called a leader! Mutter, as controversial as she is, would be more memorable for her warmth and passion, pioneering of new music, and controversy over her interpretations (the good kind of controversy, where people debate, not point out flat notes--sorry Gil). Shaham offers nothing fresh, and to be frank, neither do the majority of the men in his generation. Midori would definitely be a contender to lead the pack. (I lament the state of our modern-day violinists.) :)

March 6, 2004 at 05:31 PM · One of my favorite violinists....I saw him play the Mendelssohn with the Dallas Symphony at a rehearsal. It was FABULOUS. I think he really gets into the violin and puts everything he has into his playing.

March 7, 2004 at 01:05 AM · bah, why would anyone remember mutter as opposed to shaham, it doesnt click in my mind.

March 7, 2004 at 08:00 AM · I saw Shaham at Wigmore Hall a couple of nights ago, playing Bach's D minor Partita, and a lot of stuff with about 10 other violinists and a bass player (all from the Philharmonia orchestra). A bit like Vengerov and Virtuosi but classier. All the arrangements were done by one of the Philharmonia violinists, and even one of the pieces was an original composition by the arranger of the other pieces. Gil Shaham's wife also played with them in a reduced group of four, playing a cool arrangement of Pagnanini's 9th caprice (which morphed into the Barber of Seville overture in the middle), Sweet Georgia Brown and Summertime.

It was great fun, and Gil Shaham was in good form. I think he is definitely one of the very best younger generation performers.

I'm going to see him play the Beethoven concerto with the Philharmonia next Thursday, which I'm greatly looking forward to.


March 7, 2004 at 02:15 PM · His Prokofiev CD is superb! The concertos (especially no1) and the solo sonata are played ridiculously well. Just exactly what I want to hear, combined with brilliant technique. One of my fav. violinists.


March 7, 2004 at 02:59 PM · I love his tone and technique!!! I love his bruch Violin concertos and His wieniawski too!!

March 7, 2004 at 02:59 PM · I haven't ever noticed Gil Shaham playing slightly flat (maybe because I don't have the Prokof/Faure recording? haha)... even if he does play a little flat, you guys know how incredibly hard perfect intonation is to achieve (I'm speaking from a I-have-really-bad-intonation standpoint...), so maybe cut him some slack. I know he's a professional famous violinist and all, but he's one of the "normal" guys. He has a wife and family (yea, like kids... or, I mean, kid.) which not every prolific (as in recordings or concerts) violinist has. I cringe everytime you guys mention his intonation being slightly flat (it's just me... don't take offense) because my intonation happens to be like that too hahahah. Well I don't feel so bad about it now since Gil Shaham's intonation is like that too, but I'm still trying to make it better, maybe he is too?? :D At least HE has perfect pitch - laksjfdlkasjdf i don't lOL

March 7, 2004 at 07:51 PM · its not actually flat as far as i can tell, there is an element to his tone that could maybe trick your ear into thinking it was flat, i can't explain it.

March 7, 2004 at 08:58 PM · Well, a few years ago my intonation was slightly flat, now I have problems with it not being slightly sharp. And no, my hands didn't grow anymore ;)

regarding Shaham, I really like his playing, although his style can get somewhat penetrating sometimes

March 8, 2004 at 02:34 AM · Greetings,

depends what you mean by flat, I guess. If all his notes are in tune with each other then is he playing out of tune. If his violin is tuned lowe r than the orchestra and he is in tune with himeslf who is out of tune? Who is responsible?

I have heard Shaham live in rehearsal and perfromance and I though his intonation wa sjust fine. Ditto the recordings. In a rather dubious recent cd cmpendium of @master violnists@ he stands out very strongly (along with Kyung wha Chung) as one of the best.

Musically I find him slightly usatisfying but that is just personal.



March 8, 2004 at 03:07 PM · I have been hunting for every one of Shaham's recordings. His phrasing, musical represntation and tone all have great appeal to me.

March 10, 2004 at 02:26 AM · On the contrary, I feel very "wholesome" after listening to Shaham play.

March 10, 2004 at 03:48 AM · Greetings,

Brian. Exactly. I just can`t figure it out though because i do believe he is one of the most talented of the young artists around now.



March 21, 2004 at 12:36 AM · He's kind of incredible. One time, I was delivering pizza and happen to turn to KUSC just in time to listen to a whole Tchaik, which really was just powerful (*with my speakers). I remembered just forgetting that a pizza was steaming in the back and sat and listened so attentively to the love Tchaikovsky poured into his concerto... everynote like a spiritual utterance that only human affection and its unexplained origin could produce. That is the power of Gil. Oh, yah, his violin is way whack and weak, ie. Kabalevsky/Glazunov with Pletnev. But his sib and tchaik, are awesome. So is glaz.

March 21, 2004 at 03:22 AM · I enjoyed Shaham's recording of the Glazunov/Kabelevsky concertos; I was learning the Kabelevsky and for me, listening to his very clean style of playing was helpful.

March 21, 2004 at 02:21 PM · Shaham rocks.

March 21, 2004 at 05:46 PM · anybody heard Quartet pour la fin du temps, with gil?

March 22, 2004 at 02:45 AM · I heard Mr. Shaham play in concert 2 days ago with the San Fransisco Symphony. He played the Berg Violin Concerto and it was simply outstanding. :-)

April 18, 2004 at 12:55 PM · Okay yeah his intonation isnt quite as constant as some of the other players out there(although it is still on a quite acceptable level for me), but I would so much prefer the pure sweet tone, incredible vibrato, and the enthusiasm and energy that he brings to pieces. I'm not saying that intonation isnt important, but hearing something perfectly in tune has never made my heart skip a beat or anything. As far as his personality goes, I'm so impressed with the "next door neighbor" feel he gives. I went to a masterclass that he led, and he was so modest, polite, etc.(and told a bunch of adorable corny jokes). You wouldnt believe he was the same person that jumps all over the stage and breaks strings during concerts. I met him after a concert and he was actually flattered that I wanted to take a picture with him! I think he's a great musician and great person.

April 18, 2004 at 01:31 PM · I heard him play Beethoven Concerto with the Indianapolis Symphony a few weeks ago and it was absolutely amazing...one of the best performances I've ever seen. He's also a very gracious person.

April 18, 2004 at 02:58 PM · I went to a masterclass with gil shaham in philly (maybe we were at the same one, leah?--and if so, didn't the first violinist on the program have a fantastic violin?!). His comments on the Tchaik were hysterical. Also, I liked the way he 'suggested' ideas to the players, rather than try to impose his ideas as an absolute. He said to all the players, "use more bow!," and that idea really shows up in his playing. It's funny, cause I didn't like his interpretations as much way back when.......but after hearing him live time after time, his overall beauty of tone is a work of art....and he is becoming one of my fav violinists. I find myself prefering his recordings to other artists.

May 25, 2004 at 03:42 PM · Have loved his recordings but saw him in concert a couple of days ago. Very strange. Turned his back to most of the audience for most of the time and played to the orchestra or to the conductor. Heard some strong comments about this being rude, or him not knowing who his audience is. I was just confused about what he was trying to do. Spoiled it for me. I couldn't connect with his playing.

May 25, 2004 at 10:51 PM · maybe he forgot his part and had to look at the conductor's score?

May 26, 2004 at 12:55 PM · Gil Shaham is not a great artist. Unfortunately, neither are any of the other so called artists from the new stable of violinists we are producing now. The golden age of the violin is over. It's a great shame but Mischa Elman said it along time ago when being interviewed. He said that "today we live in an age where mediocrity is raised to a level of artistry"

I believe he was right. When he was young and studying the violin, his parents had aspirations of him being able to progress to a stage where he would be able to get a good position in an orchestra.

He and they never dreamed that he would become the type of violinist that was hailed as a great artist. We live in an age now of competions and politics. Most of the time the most gifted player is not the one who wins these competions, but the pupil of the teacher who is judging the event. We need these competions because everything has become so commercial. No artist can have a career now without a good agent, and no agent will touch an artist who hasn't won any of the top competions. Gil Shaham is boring he plays in one color. His musical choices are poor. He makes faces and grimaces which detract from his performances. I listened to one of his recordings once. At first you are impressed with this beautiful sound (which hasn't been heard from most violinists in a long time)

but after a few minutes, you want to puke. The sound becomes extremely monotonous and there is nothing interesting musically. In fact, as was stated before, I think that he makes some very poor choices musically. I know that this response is probably going to cause a lot of anger in some of you (and I apologize if anyone is offended) but let's face it, there are no more Heifetz's,Elman's, Kreisler's, Milstein's, Oistrakh's, or even Stern's. Perlman was the first to agree with me when I met him and we talked about this. There is a reason that these guys were really great.

May 26, 2004 at 01:22 PM · I apologize in advance, but I must very respectfully disagree. To me, it's strange to say that "Elman was agreat violinist and Gil Shaham is mediocre". On what basis does one judge mediocrity? Elman in some things was incredible, but what about some less incredible facets of is art? What about his lack of technique, or slides that he would not hesitate to use in Mozart or Beethoven, or tempos which, while charming in shorter vignettes, would be very strange to hear in say, Beethoven Concerto? This was also Elman. Shaham plays with one color? But, in hearing countless recordings of Elman I didn't hear incredible change in dynamics, or a total change of color--as one might expect from Oistrakh or Stern, for example. Elman's strength was his sound, but it the potency of his sound, not his ability to drastically change dynamics or to suddenly completely revert the color that he was producing. In this way, his playing could, in some works, also be close to one-dimensional. In comparison, Shaham has wonderful technique, beautiful sound--though, albeit, not as potent as Elman. He plays with his heart, and has his own musical persona. His recoridngs of the Brahms, Faure, Winiawski 1, Tartini "Devil Trill", etc, all attest to that fact, and which of the pieces that I mentioned can be called in bad taste of repertoire? He does make faces, but so did Stern, and yet that did not prevent Stern from being a genius. Is Shaham a genius? That is a matter of pure opinion, and so I would rather not debate that, BUT, he is amaster of the instrument, he plays with his heart, has a strong musical personality, and has many fine recordings, and all of this alone should attest to his mastery of the instrument.

As far as there are no great violinists left, to me, this is again, a very personal judgement, and few people agree on it. To me, just the fact that there are violinists like Perlman, Zukerman, Mutter, Minz, etc.. who are still very much active and still touch people's hearts whenever they play, is a good enough reason to not be depressed about the state of the art. I am not even mentioning Kremer who is another master of the instrument.

May 26, 2004 at 01:48 PM · Be honest: do you really like his Brahms? Well, sometimes I think, it cant be so bad as I think and throw it into the CD-player. The Orchestra is really good. But after a few bars of Shahams playing I shut it down- I just can not listen to it. The intonation is disgusting, he plays everything simply too fast, the whole interpretation is so nerveous. Of course, taste is a personal question - but I cant understand how anybody can like this recording (on the other hand, the double concerto is just fine).

May 26, 2004 at 03:31 PM · it is just opinion then, i like his brahms. I dont know why people always say none of the violinists from this era are artists but all the violinists from past eras are artists, that seems plain wrong to me

May 26, 2004 at 05:52 PM · Joel, I appreciate your thoughs, but you cant be serious that you only listned to Shaham once and totally judges him out?

And I don't agree that there is not any individuals today.

The difference between the Beethoven concerto recordings by, Mullova, Kremer, Zehetmair, Zimmermann, Mutter and Hahn is greater than the difference in interpretations and sound by Kogan and Oistrakh.

Ok, Flame me :)

May 26, 2004 at 07:15 PM · Joel,

I know that everyone has their own opinion as to whether they like anothers playing but to judge someone of Gil Shaham's stature from one hearing is ludicrous.

It seems to me that if you can do better than todays top players than go to it.

I dont seem to remember ever seeing your name in print anywhere. Could it be that there is some jealousy involved or are you just normally bitter towards todays violinist.

I think we have an excellent crop of young players with more on the way. I also think that we should quit living in the past and listen more closely to what is being played today.

I am in no way saying Heifetz, Milstein, Oistrakh and all the others of that era were not amazing because there were, but todays kids are very amazing in their own rights as well.

All it takes is listening and I dont believe that you can form an honest opinion after only one hearing. Rachel

May 26, 2004 at 09:01 PM · while i disagree with him i dont think it's necessary to bring his skill into this, it bears little releveance to the impression Gil's music makes on him.

May 26, 2004 at 09:53 PM · Greetings,

on the personal opinion level Shaham`s playing doesn`t interest me that much although the sheer achivement of walking out on stage and playing great music is always worthy of respect. Elman is a highly underated violnist but you have to accept that some of his stuff is bloody awful as well- the Late recording of Mozart 4 leaves me squirming with embrassament.

There are violnists today who I listen to and leave the hall feeling changed and moved in very deep ways. Recently these have included Perlman, Midori, and Andrei Beliov.

However, when I watch the new crop of DVDs of olde rgeneration players I do find an extra depth in their playing of a kind that is rather hard to define. On one level, what they seem to have in common is much greater contact with the ground, without exception the great violnists of the past have less body movement than all the young violnist above (except Perlman who count as olde rgeneration anyway...).

On the level of idle specualtion, it seems quite logical to me that the great young player sof today are likely to reflect the values of the world we live in. How could they not ? Noone lives in a vacuum, and I am afraid much of what we do is governmed by a sensless and self destructive drive to consume or compete,

Today@s players at least give us hope in trying to get away from that for a time.



May 26, 2004 at 10:52 PM · Hes definetly a great violinist. What ive noticed in his playing though is he is surely technically in control, and musically, has very fast trills, (listen to his devils trill sonata recording on

devils Dance and youll see). His playing though to me seems to be (I dont know exactly how to put it), without a unique style, which is unlike perlman rabin, zukkerman definetly and milstien. He is just as good as them, basically but lacks his very own style. None the less his music comes out G-R-E-A-T

May 26, 2004 at 11:42 PM · I think Gil Shaham's playing is absolutely heavenly. I heard him play the Korngold with front row seats. From the beginning to the end i was just glowing with happiness. He poured himself into every single note. HIs body movements and expressions helped me feel the music more. It was truly great artistry

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