The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Hagai Shaham (violin) BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins
As Calum Macdonald’s excellent booklet note explains, Ferdinand David was one of the 19th century’s most important violinists, his reputation inextricably linked to the ‘classical’ German tradition. These concertos reveal a personality cognate with but distinct from his close colleague Mendelssohn, although the vitality of the Andante and Scherzo capriccioso, balanced by soulful and noble melody (as in the slow movement of the Fourth Concerto) have Mendelssohnian credentials. This is particularly evident in the elevated and impassioned writing of the first movement of the Fifth Concerto.
Rather than following the example of scholar–players of performing practice in the music of David such as Clive Brown, the playing of Hagai Shaham (a former pupil of Ilona Fehér and winner of the 1990 ARD Munich competition) is very much in the modern mould, but his vibrato is relatively chaste and his tone virile and strong, avoiding the ‘washed-out’ effect unhelpfully visited on many performances of such repertoire. The finale of the Fourth Concerto, for example, is played in a lively way, with immaculate passagework and control of sound, although the hymn-like slow movement reveals a rather obtrusive vibrato, especially so in high registers where it appears too wide and slow. In general, though, this is fine playing and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins underpins it admirably, while Hyperion transmits the results with great clarity.