Two key insights overheard exiting the Royal Festival Hall at the interval last night. First, Hindemith’s Violin Concerto is a surprisingly entertaining listen and second, violinist Gil Shaham remains a captivating performer.
Let’s start with the music. If you’re feeling you’re over familiar with Shostakovich, Hindemith might be your next port of call. Just enough convention in the format. There’s a vague whiff of romanticism too in the harmonies and musical language. But there’s spikiness and awkwardness everywhere. Hindemith is sort of Britten with a bit more lushness. Top line message: Hindemith isn’t anywhere near as scary as you assume his music will be saying his name out loud. And how he loves writing for brass and woodwind. Hindemith ADORES texture.
This was the third time I’d heard Shaham play live in three years. The first was in the Bruch at the Barbican days before the first U.K. lockdown, the second in Dubai when he performed with the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra. At the Barbican up close he turned up on stage with an endearing humility that made his playing unfussy and accessible. He was the same in Dubai (and the same in conversation – patient, kind and generous). And here at the Royal Festival Hall, playing his part as soloist and, when not playing, knodding, smiling and bouncing to the beat along with his peers.
I’ve been listening to the Hindemith Violin Concerto repeatedly today as a result. A job well done Shaham.