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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spontaneous and Inevitable, 13 Aug 2002
By 
Eric J. Matluck (Hackettstown, NJ United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Brahms: Violin Concerto / Double Concerto (Audio CD)
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). Instead, Shaham, Wang, and Abbado give a performance that is virile, yet touched by melancholy (the closing bars of the slow movement are breathtaking, as is much of the hushed development section of the first movement), and, by opening themselves up to a wider range of emotions than I've ever heard in this work, give it a fitting grandeur, appropriate to Brahms' valedictory orchestral statement.
The performance of the Violin Concerto took me longer to get a handle on; it is emotionally complex (both the work and the artists' interpretation of it) and can't really be summed up in a few words. That said, the word that first came to mind was "sensuous," although there is no lack of heft in the reading here; then words like "spontaneous" and "effortless" came to mind. For a while there, truth to tell, I wondered if perhaps Shaham and Abbado didn't make the piece sound too "easy," not projecting enough sense of struggle, but then I realized that Brahms had conceived this piece as (what was for him) "idyllic." It shares the world of the Second Symphony and First Violin Sonata. After several more listenings I finally hit on the word "inevitable." Listening to the way the work is performed here, I can't imagine it being performed any other way. Yet there is nothing overtly radical about the interpretation. The first movement is alternately tough and tender, at a tempo a bit faster than the norm, but never (!) sounding rushed; the second movement has a wonderful whimsy (with a superbly individual delivery [lots of rubato!] of the famous oboe solo); and the finale goes like lightning without ever sounding like cheap display. Overriding it all is the superb partnership (and balancing) between solist and conductor, making this a true "symphonic concerto."
In sum, a refreshing, thought-provoking, and altogether beautiful set of performances of two life-enhancing works, to engage mind and heart. I wouldn't be surprised if this one were destined for greatness.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional, 3 Mar 2010
By 
enthusiast "enthusiast" (sussex, uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Brahms: Violin Concerto / Double Concerto (Audio CD)
These really are wonderful performances. I've had them for more than a decade and they still thrill me. Shaham rhapsodic, sweet-toned approach in this music is very compelling and very beautiful. His violin concerto lives and breathes. And, with a co-soloist who he is so obviously in-tune with, the account of the Double is wonderful. Needless to say, Abbado's (and the BPO's) support is reliable and yet alive. There is a touch of lightness to the playing and textures (soloists and orchestra) here - something that Brahms can often benefit from - but, beyond all such interpretive matters, is the simple fact of highly intelligent and musically sophisticated performers playing music together and finding something special in doing so.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top choices!, 5 May 2007
By 
Mr. Ian A. Macfarlane "almac1975" (Fife, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Brahms: Violin Concerto / Double Concerto (Audio CD)
This recording of the Double Concerto was recently picked as top recommendation in a very competitive field on BBC Radio 3's 'CD Review'. It is fully worthy of it. Ever since I bought Gil Shaham's marvellous DVD of Mozart Sonatas with his sister Orla, I've admired his playing, and in this very very different repertoire he is supreme. It's not an easy Concerto to pull off, beautiful as it is, but everything here is right - the playing of the two soloists, the contribution of orchestra and conductor (very characterful without taking any liberties with the music at all). 'Cellist and violinist are of one mind and the interplay between them is completely convincing. The music sounds at its very best here, never heavy, never poorly balanced, never less than beautiful or lively or both together. There is some marvellously hushed quiet playing, for example in the slow movement. So it is too with the Violin Concerto. This is a wonderful piece but one which it is easy to play less than wonderfully - I have heard so many so-so performances, accurate, in tune, but pretty dull. Shaham lives every note and the whole thing crackles with vigour and conviction. So this CD is just about as good as it gets.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding!, 29 Jun 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Brahms: Violin Concerto / Double Concerto (Audio CD)
Brahms' Violin Concerto is one of my favorite pieces of music. I have anxiously awaited the release of this CD ever since I saw Gil Shaham perform the concerto in concert last year. It has not disappointed me in the least -- in fact, it has surpassed the Jascha Heifetz recording to be my favorite. Gil Shaham and Claudio Abbado bring such power and passion to this masterpiece.
I'm sorry to say I had never heard the Double Concerto before hearing it on this recording. I really missed out on a lot -- it's one of Brahms' most beautiful works. Cellist Jian Wang is very good -- at times even threatening to overshadow Shaham!
In short, this CD is a must have. Do yourself a favor and buy it!
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brahms Double Concerto, 15 Nov 2010
This review is from: Brahms: Violin Concerto / Double Concerto (Audio CD)
Recently, I heard the Halle Orchestra playing this, in Manchester at the Bridgewater Hall and fell in love with it. I therefore decided to buy a copy. Although this recording is not quite the same at a live performance in a modern and acoustically correct concert hall, it certainly lived up to my expectations. I am no music expert, but I thoroughly enjoy listening to this recording.
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Brahms: Violin Concerto / Double Concerto
Brahms: Violin Concerto / Double Concerto by Gil Shaham (Audio CD - 2002)
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