The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Hagai Shaham (violin) Arnon Erez (piano)
Composer: Dohnányi, Janácek (arr. Š t?dro?)

Hagai Shaham gives a?deliciously rich and eloquent account of Dohnányi’s Violin Sonata, positively old-fashioned in?its generous vibrato and abundance of portamentos. He is adept at combining broad-spanned lyricism with narrative drama, driving through a semiquaver arabesque with a dramatic flourish in one place, punching out a rhythmic detail with the bow in another, before heading into the upper reaches of the E string with an ecstatic swoop. It is thrilling, captivating playing, joyous and tender.  

In his Ruralia hungarica Dohnányi shifts into full-blooded gypsy mode, to which Shaham responds with a heart-on-sleeve melodic fluidity in the central Andante rubato alla zingaresca and stomping pesante dynamism in the high jinks of the outer movements. He is elegantly soulful in Heifetz’s arrangement of the Romanza.

There are sumptuous moments in Janá?ek’s Sonata, too, but this is darker stuff, and Shaham brings to it a gentle sensibility, often contained and withdrawn in tone, his phrasing understated. The rapport between Shaham and Arnon Erez, itself a notable feature of the disc, is quite wonderful in the tricky ensemble and fractured discourse of this sonata. The short pieces, early and late Janác?ek, are charming. Shaham stands close and resonant in the recorded sound.