Nigunim, Hebrew Melodies

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Siblings Gil and Orli Shaham's new release is an offering of Hebrew melodies. Jewish folk music has always played an integral part in the Shahams' lives; as Gil recalls he grew up hearing Achron's Hebrew Melody being sung by his grandparents in Jerusalem. Such music vividly evokes its troubled origins. 'When I think about the time, people lived such hard lives in such poverty in the shtetl, and I think literature and music was an incredible escape for them,' the violinist reflects, yet the Hebrew melodies' potency is such that they transcend the world from which they sprang. 'One very powerful aspect of this music is its soulfulness,' Orli Shaham says; 'I don't care what background you come from, I don't think you can listen to it without feeling that connection.'


This release includes masterpieces by Ernest Bloch, Joseph Achron, and Leo Zeitlin, as their idiomatic writing for the violin might suggest they all started their musical lives as child prodigy violinists.


The center-piece of the disc comes from the work sharing the album's title Nigunim, commissioned by Gil and Orli from Israeli composer Avner Dorman. Unlike Bloch, Achron, and Zeitlin, Dorman is a composer/pianist and this can be clearly heard in the equality he gives the piano in this fascinating 4 movement offering. Dorman's composition shares the universal appeal of the wordless melodies on which it was named. 'He has created a masterpiece and in my experience everybody who hears the piece falls in love with it they're electrified by it,' Gil explains. Indeed, when he recently toured the work, San Diego Today affirmed that 'it was hard to miss [its] visceral excitement and structural elegance,' the Boston Globe admiring the 'uncommonly intriguing sounds'.


John Williams is the only composer here who does not share the Shahams' Jewish heritage, but his mastery in the score Schindler's List is such that according to Orli, 'he has absolutely captured the feeling of ghetto life and what that looked like and how people interacted - the pieces included here are so authentic that they are a part of this tradition.'

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