WORKS: Stempenyu: Violin music
PERFORMER: Hagai Shaham (violin), Arnon Erez (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: LAW 021
Apart from the ubiquitous Hebrew Melody made famous by such artists as Elman and Heifetz, Joseph Achron’s music is practically unknown these days. Yet this Polish-born virtuoso violinist, pedagogue and composer, who enjoyed the imprimatur of no less a figure than Schoenberg, hardly deserves to languish in such obscurity. This impression is certainly confirmed while listening to the collection of violin miniatures, performed here with such brilliance and commitment by Hagai Shaham and Arnon Erez. Here indeed is an individual voice whose creative horizons extended far beyond conventional imitations of the 19th-century virtuoso tradition of Sarasate and Wieniawski to a much more exotic style that can be compared to Enescu and Szymanowski.
Two of Achron’s pieces also feature in a generously filled recital that explores Jewish influences on a wide spectrum of composers ranging from Halévy to Bloch. Violinist Miriam Kramer performs this repertoire in an expressive and sensitive manner, but she lacks Shaham’s distinctive musical personality and cutting edge, particularly in the higher registers of her instrument. Perhaps ASV’s rather resonant recording accounts for this loss of impact, but the programme as a whole might have benefited from incorporating a greater variety of styles, replacing some of the more monotonous Yiddish folksong arrangements with examples of contemporary Israeli music. Erik Levi