Saint-Saëns, Korngold, Grieg, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Sarasate, Tartini, Ysaÿe, Paganini, Bolcom, Bazzini, J Williams & Morris

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bazzini,Bolcom,Brahms,Grieg,J Williams & Morris,Korngold,Mendelssohn,Paganini,Saint-Sa‘ns,Sarasate,Tartini,Ysaye
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Devil’s Dance
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Gil Shaham (violin), Jonathan Feldman (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 463 483-2

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The violin’s mythical links with the demonic and the supernatural – Nero fiddling while Rome burned, Death scraping away at a shrill violin in Jean Lahor’s poem ‘Danse macabre’, Paganini and his supposed pact with the devil – all fired Gil Shaham’s imagination for Devil’s Dance. Such ploys all too often seem contrived, and the disc certainly pursues its theme to extremes with the hidden voice of a ‘demon fiddler’ inserted after the first track. Yet it offers more than simply an onslaught of virtuosic bravado. There are the obvious showpieces, brilliantly executed – Sarasate’s Concert Fantasy on Gounod’s Faust, Paganini’s Caprice No. 13, even a specially made arrangement of John Williams’s ‘Devil’s Dance’ from The Witches of Eastwick – but alongside these are rarer treats, miniatures by Brahms and Mendelssohn, Korngold’s spirited yet supremely delicate Caprice fantastique and William Bolcom’s jazzy Graceful Ghost, with its arch, swaggering phrases. Shaham scales the virtuosic heights of such pieces as Tartini’s ‘Devil’s Trill’ Sonata, Grieg’s brief yet fiendishly difficult Puck and Bazzini’s La ronde des lutins with astonishing technical mastery, but in the end it is the delicate and considered restraint of his partnership with pianist Jonathan Feldman that ensures a wonderful litheness and depth of expression in these colourful pieces.

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Catherine Nelson