Bloch, Ben-Ha•m

COMPOSERS: Ben-Haïm,Bloch
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Bloch , Ben-Ha•m
WORKS: Baal Shem Suite; Suite hébraïque;Suites Nos 1 & 2; Sonata in G minor for solo violin;Improvisation and Dance;Berceuse sfaradite
PERFORMER: Hagai Shaham (violin),Arnon Erez (piano)
The music of Ernest Bloch and Paul Ben-Haïm shares Jewish elements, yet also seems to draw inspiration from different musical traditions. Bloch draws from Bachian rhetoric as well as elements of Jewish cantillation and French Impressionism, whereas for Ben-Haïm, who was of German extraction, the main creative stimulus seems to stem from Bartók and Eastern-European folk music.

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Both composers are served extremely well on this beautifully recorded disc, Hagai Shaham and Arnon Erez in particular giving a totally convincing performance of Bloch’s well-known Baal Shem. In ‘Nigun’, for example, their power-house playing is carefully controlled so as to avoid any hint of over-indulgence or sentimentality. Yet the overall impact is all the more powerful for the sure sense of pacing both artists demonstrate throughout the recital, qualities that stand Shaham in particularly good stead in steering a clear sense of direction through the more discursive melodic lines of the unaccompanied Suites or the slow movement of the Ben-Haïm Sonata. Although on the evidence of this disc Ben-Haïm emerges as a less individual creative force than Bloch, the concluding Improvisation and Dance, brilliantly dispatched by both artists, would perhaps make a welcome alternative to Ravel’s much-played Tzigane. Erik Levi