When Gil Shaham's son found out his father would be traveling from New York to Oklahoma for a solo appearance with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, he asked if he could come along. It wasn't to hear his father perform; he could do that any day. It turns out that 9-year old Elijah is a big Thunder fan and was hoping to meet NBA star Kevin Durant.
Elijah may have to wait until March to see the OKC Thunder play at Madison Square Garden, but classical music fans will be able to hear Shaham perform this week at the Civic Center Music Hall. He'll be the featured soloist in Brahms' “Violin Concerto in D Major.”
For the second concert of the orchestra's 2012-13 season, which is subtitled “Songs of Land and Sea,” music director Joel Levine has also programmed Glinka's “Kamarinskya,” Britten's “Four Sea Interludes” from “Peter Grimes” and Kodaly's “Dances of Galanta.”
Shaham, 41, is one of the leading violinists of his generation. In 2008, he received the prestigious Avery Fisher Prize, a $75,000 award considered one of the most significant awards for American instrumentalists.
“I was very humbled to be chosen for the Avery Fisher Prize,” Shaham said. “It's not like a competition or something you can apply for. I was playing at Lincoln Center and at the end of the concert, my friend Gustavo Dudamel came up and surprised me with the award.”
In 1990, Shaham was the recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant, an award designed to help young artists launch their careers. As the celebrated philanthropist once noted, “Musicians of outstanding ability are such an important part of our culture. But they are like flowers that must bloom at a particular time. They have to be helped at the right moments.”
Shaham says he was smitten with the Brahms “Concerto in D Major” when he first heard it around age 10. But young violinists rarely perform this work early in their careers. Learning the notes is far easier than creating an interpretation that conveys a profound depth of understanding and considerable musical intelligence.