World-renowned Grammy-winning violinist Gil Shaham performed on December 11 in front of a packed Shannon Hall theater inside the University of Wisconsin Memorial Union.
There was no shortage of anticipation as patrons were eager to see a long overdue performance.
Shaham was originally scheduled to appear in March 2020 in Madison – just weeks before the global COVID-19 pandemic began. With many tickets already sold for Shaham’s performance before it was canceled, in a show of good faith, many supporters chose to forgo their refunds, choosing instead to help support and preserve the Wisconsin Union Theater and its long concert series.
On that note, rescheduling Gil Shaham became a priority, and there was no better way to cap off a series of brief but magical concerts than to do so as part of the David and Kato chamber music series. Pearlman.
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From an early age, Gil Shaham showed promise as a budding violinist. At the age of seven, Shaham was featured in the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. At ten, he made his debut with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. At eleven, Shaham was admitted to the Juilliard School of Performing Arts in New York where he honed his craft.
Over the following decades, beginning with his stint with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1990, Shaham traveled the world performing with world-renowned orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. For his group and solo work, Shaham has won numerous awards, including a Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance in 1999 and was named Musical America’s “Instrumentalist of the Year” in 2012.
Gil Shaham’s 90-minute performance is divided into two distinct segments: long classical works and short modern compositions. Shaham opens the “Violin Sonata No. 2 in A minor”, a tribute to the legendary composer Johann Sebastian Bach.
The 20-minute piece — which Shaham performs entirely from memory — is marked by four distinct movements: Grave, Fuga, Andante and Allegro. Characterized by its dramatic changes in rhythm and tone, it is a melodic journey that showcases both Shaham’s mastery of his craft and his exceptional mastery of the instrument.
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After a brief intermission, Shaham performed a short piece called “Isolation Rag”. Composed by his musical peer Scott Wheeler, “Isolation Rag” was written at the height of the pandemic.
The piece is about musicians’ common affliction of not being able to collaborate, share and play music together during months of social distancing. This attitude-laden ragtime served as a remarkably relatable piece of music, perhaps a refreshing take on the night’s showcase of long-running classic epics.
For his last piece, Shaham reunited with Bach, performing his famous “Violin Partita No. 3 in E major”. The 20-minute piece is an endless dance, fast in tempo but slow and deliberate in its detail. Suggested by the long applause of the audience, this dynamic conclusion was among the highlights of the evening, crowning a night of musical brilliance.
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Shaham represents the great lengths that can be done at full capacity. Beginning with his early days as a musical prodigy and throughout his illustrious career, it is clear from his talent, demeanor and class, that his success stems from his dedication to his work.
While most musicians frantically sift through sheet music, Shaham has his 90-minute performance memorized, which helps him extract every ounce of emotion from the music he plays so elegantly.
Yet his ability to connect with audiences is equally energizing. From selecting a mouth-watering variety of music to cracking jokes with the audience between songs, it was inspiring to see a composed and serious musician care so much about ensuring a worthy experience for every audience member.
While Gil Shaham marked the 2021 concert series, plenty of incredible talent is already lined up for 2022. Third Coast Percussion performed their program titled “Metamorphosis” at Hamel Music Center on January 27th. February 10Memorial Union welcomes the Brentano String Quartet as part of its 30and Anniversary concert tour. For tickets and more information, visit the Wisconsin Union Theater website and social media pages.