Entertainment » Music

Nigunim - Hebrew Melodies

by Steven Bergman
Contributor
Friday Jul 19, 2013
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Grammy Award-winning Gil Shaham has proven himself one of his generation’s foremost masters of the violin, and has started his own record company to distribute additional recordings of himself paired with his sister, the prominent pianist Orli Shaham. The latest release from the Canary Classics label is a virtuosic visit to the Jewish melodies of the Shahams’ ancestry, titled "Nigunim: Hebrew Melodies."

"Nigunim," the Hebrew word for "instrumental music-making," is an engaging exploration of several notable arrangements in Jewish folk music. The composers that the Shahams have selected to present on this recording are a cross-section of those who have been at the forefront of this niche since its inclusion into American music at the beginning of the 20th century.

The highlights of this set include a commission by the Shahams and the 92nd Street Y, which led to the creation of the "Violin Sonata, No.3" by the young composer, Avner Dorman. The 37-year old Israeli has created a highly technical, four-movement work that should instantly be accepted into standard violin literature. Shaham expertly handles the complex passages and soothes the strings of his Stradivarius on the two adagio movements, while Orli deftly navigates the complicated piano accompaniment.

Also featured are three pieces from John Williams’ score to the film "Schindler’s List." Though the main theme will always be associated with its original performer, Yitzhak Perlman, Shaham passionately plays through one of the most famous of Williams’ film motifs, in addition to two other cues from his movie soundtrack.

The pieces include three arrangements of traditional melodies by the Russian composer Joseph Achron (1886 - 1943), an accomplished violinist in his own rite. Shaham performs the music with an ease and ethnic pride that takes the listener back to the Polish shtetls of old.

This album is a joyous listen, regardless of one’s ethnic background, due to the respect that the Shahams’ performance demands.

"Nigunim: Hebrew Melodies"
Gil and Orli Shaham
CD and Digital formats
Canary Classics

Steven Bergman is a Composer / Playwright / Performing Arts Educator based outside of Boston, MA.

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