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Vln Cto/Double Cto

Johannes Brahms Audio CD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 14.59 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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1. Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major, op.77 - ShahamBerlin P.OAbbado
2. Concerto for Violin, Violoncello and Orchestra in A minor, op.102 ("Double Concerto") - ShahamBerlin P.OAbbado

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The final flurry of recordings by Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic before formally parting company in summer 2002, includes this impressive tribute to Brahms and the violinist Joseph Joachim made at the Philharmonie Berlin in May 2000. The Violin Concerto in D and the Double Concerto in A minor were both composed for Joachim who is incarnate here in the steely, finely economical tone of fiddler Gil Shaham. His powerful first-movement certainties are tinged with timid introspection in the beautiful adagio, but burst into urgent exuberance in the finale. Naturally he plays Joachim's first-movement cadenza and does so with polished ease, clearly demonstrating the fruitfulness of the composer's and dedicatee's relationship.

Shaham is joined by cellist Jian Wang for the Double Concerto. Their intercourse veers between loving reciprocity and sparring antagonism, as did Joachim's with his wife who divorced him and with Brahms who censured him. Dramatic, volatile tension drives the first movement like a threatening family row. Abbado steers the wrestling like a manipulative referee, cajoling the orchestra into a ringside crowd. The thoughtful slow movement moves like an agile heavyweight while the thrilling four-round rondo finale begins with tentative jabs before a tutti onslaught of syncopated blows and grinding interspersed themes makes of it a canvas-pounding knockout that calls for an immediate replay.--Rick Jones


Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good but not quite great performances. Jan. 21 2003
Format:Audio CD
I'm a Gil Shaham fan. I think his tone is as gorgeous as any I've ever heard, and he consistently gives artistically tasteful performances. The performances of both of the concertos on this recording are very good and most classical music lovers should find them very pleasing. Then why am I giving this CD only 4 stars? Because, good as these performances are, the performances on Philips by Henryk Szeryng (with cellist Janos Starker in the Double Concerto) are significantly better. In fact, Szeryng's performances of both of these concertos are the best I've ever heard. Regretably Szeryng never received the public accolades that some other violinists such as the excellent Gil Shaham have received and, therefore, he may not be known to you. But, many who are familiar with Szeryng's recordings, regard him as perhaps the finest violinist of the recorded era. If you like Gil Shaham -- or just like fine violin playing -- you won't be disappointed with this CD. But if you're looking for truly great performances of these concertos get those by Szeryng.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Spontaneous and inevitable Dec 19 2002
Format:Audio CD
I ordered this disc from Amazon in the United Kingdom, a couple of months before it became available in the United States. I gave it a rave review on that Web site and feel compelled to repeat that review here:
Thank God for the Internet! If not for it, Americans like me would hardly be able to lay hands on this extraordinary disc. And extraordinary it is, boasting superlative performances of two of Brahms' most important works in rich, velvety, and ideally balanced sound.
The Double Concerto, long my favorite of Brahms' four concerti, here gets the performance of its life. Praise, first, to the two solists, who play as one; more than once during the first movement, where the violin begins a downward passage only to be taken up by the 'cello, or the 'cello begins an upward passage to be continued by the violin, I couldn't tell where one soloist left off and the other began. Such synergy is woefully rare in performances of this piece and here bespeaks (finally!) the matching of two musicians of caliber. Too often, we are forced to listen to a great violinist and a so-so 'cellist make this work into a violin concerto with 'cello obligato (I'm thinking of the unfortunate Mutter/Meneses/Karajan recording) or a great violinist and great 'cellist contort the piece out of all recognizable shape at the service of virtuosity (I won't even mention which recording I'm talking about here, because I know it has its legions of admirers).
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By John Kwok TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
Shaham's performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto is quite simply the most lyrical recent performance available on CD; it is also the swiftest. I strongly commend Shaham's playing, though it lacks the pyrotechnics one hears in recent recordings by Mutter and Vengerov. With Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra as accompanists, Shaham is in excellent hands; Abbado does a great job emphasizing the rich orchestral textures in Brahms's score. Indeed, I think Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic have yielded a more dramatic - and yes, swifter - performance of this concerto than their peers in New York (Mutter's Deutsche Grammophon recording) and Chicago (Vengerov's for Teldec). It is also the best-balanced of the three recordings.
It's regrettable that Shaham's performance wasn't recorded in the classic Jesus Christus Kirche studio used often by Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, taking advantage of the studio's warm, lush sound. However, the Double Concerto was recorded there. Unfortunately, that may be the only excellent point about its recording since neither Shaham nor Wang seem to meld well as soloists. I've heard other, more vibrant performances of the Double Concerto; one recently heard version is one with Szeryng and Starker with Bernard Haitink conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra.
Fans of Shaham's playing won't be disappointed with either performance. However, if one wants more dramatic performances of the Brahms Violin Concerto, there are better recent recordings available, most notably those with Mutter and especially, Vengerov.
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