CLASSICAL MUSIC Hagai Shaham, Wigmore Hall, London

The last time I heard Joseph Achron's Hebrew Melody, it was through a misty veil of shellac surface noise. But on Thursday evening at the Wigmore Hall, 30-year-old violinist Hagai Shaham drew aside the veil to reveal a soulful narrative and a tone that was as rich and vibrant as Jascha Heifetz's on my trusted old 78rpm record. Hagai gave us the Melody as one of two encores, having already treated us to three other works by Achron - the three-movement Stempenyu Suite, a highly charged Stimmung and a rustic Hebrew Dance. Achron was born in Lithuania in 1886, emigrated to America and died there in 1943. His work recalls small Jewish communities in pre-Holocaust Eastern Europe, sacred in joy and supplication, passionate, excitable and without the least suggestion of pretension. It's the music of heart and family, comfortable and intensely emotional and in marked contrast to the more cosmopolitan language of Ernest Bloch. Hagai's playing was both seamless and rhapsodic: he'd speed dangerously through the Hebrew Dance and yet his control of the bow allowed for an ethereal, long-breathed diminuendo at the end of the Hebrew Melody. Arnon Erez, Shaham's pianist, showed parallel insights into Achron's piano-writing (his handling of the Melody's opening bars was remarkably free) and I was happy to learn that these talented young artists have recorded a whole CD's worth of Achron's music for Biddulph (it's a November release).

It was but a short hop from the Hebrew Dance of Achron to the Hungarian Folk Dances that Bartok arranged for piano and that Joseph Szigeti transcribed for violin and piano. The same executive virtues warmed the melody line - curvaceous slides, a smoothly drawn tone, generous vibrato and judicious phrasing, with only the odd botched harmonic to mar the effect. Debussy's late Violin Sonata was suitably capricious, with some spectacular runs and fairly forthright support from Erez.

Prior to the interval, our fiery fiddler was a formal violinist and Arnon Erez more an accompanist than an equal partner. The opening Bach Sonata in E minor, BWV 1023, found Shaham rather rushing his fences, sliding from the note's centre during the opening Allegro, though quickly regaining composure for the remaining three movements. This time, the tone was lean, bright and cool, whereas the Kreutzer Sonata had plenty of "welly" and a good deal of theatrical inflexion: Shaham is pretty adept at soaring high on a forte then diving to a sudden pianissimo. The second movement went very well (Shaham's trills are immaculate), though I would have welcomed less of a gap between individual variations. The finale was a genuine Presto, played with its repeat intact (the first movement's repeat was omitted) and maintaining considerable momentum for the duration. It was a good performance, more respectful than perceptive, whereas Hagai's Achron, Bartok and Debussy were confided "from the inside". If he plays for us again - and I sincerely hope that he does - perhaps he will forgo the formality of a "classical first half" and treat us to more rarities by Achron and, perhaps, Hubay or Ysae.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices