Violinists often speak of an ever-changing relationship with their instrument. For two decades, Shaham has played a Stradivarius known as the “Comtesse de Polignac,” a 1699 violin that is slimmer and slightly longer than other instruments the Italian craftsman made.
“I'm just amazed because I feel like after 20 years, I've just touched the tip of the iceberg,” Shaham said recently. “It's such an incredibly smart instrument, and there's so much in there. I'm just now starting to understand what my violin knew all along.”
Shaham said he's probably played the Brahms violin concerto “a couple of hundred times,” but as with any acknowledged masterpiece, it never ceases to surprise the performer with some tiny detail that emerges unexpectedly.
“I think that's why people love this piece the way they do,” Shaham said. “The craftsmanship is so perfect and so amazing. Every note and every passage were carefully put down to tell a story.
“As this narrative unfolds, people can't help but respond to the emotional impact. Like a great novel, film or play, by the time you get to the end, you feel like you've been on an amazing journey. There's something so satisfying about that.”