Chan Centre for the Performing Arts

GIL SHAHAM, violin with AKIRA EGUCHI, piano

Tuesday, April 13, 1999 at the The Chan Centre for Performing Arts

by Amanda McArthur

It is difficult to pinpoint what makes a performer a virtuoso; however, as the first strains of Bach's Sonata No.3 in E major floated through the Chan Centre, I had no doubt that Mr. Gil Shaham deserves that accolade. Mr. Eguchi's performance was nothing short of brilliant. The Adagio was sweet almost to the point of pain while the Allegro was like bright sunlight glinting off the water of a running stream. In all four movements, Mr. Shaham and Mr. Eguchi were in perfect balance - they moved seamlessly from one mood to the next, their timing was impeccable and they made playing Bach look easy!

The second piece of the evening was a Previn Sonata, "Vineyard". Where the classical Bach sonata was light-hearted and bright, the modern Previn sonata was dark and troubling. It was easy to visualize clouds moving over a vineyard, rain or hail assailing the grapes, or glimpses of dull sunlight between the clouds. Underlying even the calmer moments was the memory of a storm just past or knowledge of another storm on the horizon. In the first half of the programme, these two gentlemen had already shown a great amount of versatility.

In Prokofiev's Five Melodies, each movement seemed to evoke thoughts of a different element of Russian life - a stroll down a whimsical street in a Russian village, a tender courtship, a busy marketplace filled with animated conversation, an afternoon of play and an evening of entertainment starring the music of the violin. The underlying rhythms and harmonies in each melody were distinctly those of Russia. In sharp contrast, almost everything about Copeland's Ukelele Serenade is American. The recurring western hoedown theme and Mr. Shaham's obvious sense of humour created an energetic, cheerful, carefree mood.

The last two pieces, and the encore, were fantastic. The Strauss Rosenkavalier Waltzes could not have been danced to; one would have to fly in order to match the grace and lightness of the performance. Only Bizet's Carmen could surpass it in majesty. The drama and grandeur of Bizet's opera were captured perfectly as the musical themes were played out in this Fantasy. I have never heard two instruments sound as close to a full orchestra as when these two gentlemen were playing the Toreador Song. Finally, the encore, taken from the Barber of Seville, can only be described as an absolute musical treat that I haven't been able to get out of my head since! This concert was pure pleasure.