The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Gil Shaham (violin) Sejong Soloists
Composer: Haydn

Gil Shaham can do what he likes with his own record label, but a decent?A&R man might have warned him off this unsuccessful coupling. We start with the two most popular Joseph Haydn violin concertos, pleasantly recorded in a nice, open acoustic where Shaham’s own distinctive tone can flower a little. Tempos are on the trim side and the tiny orchestra is not always ideally subtle, especially in the adagios – compare the Camerata Lysy with the late Alberto Lysy (Claves) in renderings that are more spacious and considered in all movements except the G?major’s finale. But these are fair performances.

Instead of more Haydn, or Michael Haydn, we are given Mendelssohn’s Octet, and from an edition that takes account of the manuscript. But if Shaham wants to offer us tiny variations from the norm, he might at least give us a chance to hear them. All speeds are too fast: even the Andante is moved along by the Tempo Police. It might just work with a better recording; but this one, in a different acoustic from the Haydn, is?not very agreeable. We have so many octets more sensibly coupled and more sensitively played. Despite many nice touches, this one will not do.