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Gil Shaham Records Beethoven And Brahms With The Knights

color photo of Eric Jacobsen, Gil Shaham, and The Knights in recording session
publicity photo
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Courtesy of Unison Media
Conductor Eric Jacobsen and violinist Gil Shaham in a recording session with The Knights

“These pieces have some kind of sibling connection. They are born of the same muse.”

That’s what noted violinist Gil Shaham said recently about the violin concertos by Beethoven and Brahms, works he performs on a new recording with the New York-based orchestra The Knights and conductor Eric Jacobsen.

Shaham has spent decades performing both concertos around the world, and his affection for these works nearly bubbles over when he speaks about them. From his unique vantage point onstage, he has seen the spirit of the music reach other people.

“I remember being in Indianapolis and performing the Beethoven Violin Concerto,” Shaham said. “And as I’m standing listening to the orchestra play the opening, there’s a young lady in the audience, and I just happen to catch the expression on her face. And she’s listening to this, and her reaction is like, ‘This is the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard in my entire life.’ And that’s right. That’s exactly what this is. And I think this concerto had that effect on Johannes Brahms, too.”

Some 40 years after the world premiere of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, the teenaged Brahms heard the violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim perform the piece. About six years later, Brahms met Joachim, and the two formed what would become a close cllifelong friendship.

Twenty-five years later, when Brahms was composing his own violin concerto, Joachim offered extensive input on the score. And when Joachim gave the world premiere of Brahms’ concerto – with Brahms himself conducting – he insisted on performing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto first on the program, thereby joining the two concertos – like siblings or fast friends – forever.

“I believe the Brahms is autobiographical. I think it’s his testament to friendship, his friendship with Joachim in particular, but the ideal of friendship and a human connection in general,” Shaham said.

In my interview with Shaham and Jacobsen, hear Shaham elaborate on his “autobiographical” interpretation of Brahms’ Violin Concerto, and hear Jacobsen talk about why he thinks the Beethoven and Brahms Violin Concertos, though not new, are just what the world needs right now.

Jennifer Hambrick unites her extensive backgrounds in the arts and media and her deep roots in Columbus to bring inspiring music to central Ohio as Classical 101’s midday host. Jennifer performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before earning a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.