These are spirited, highly insightful readings of these Prokofieff works by both artists. Gil Shaham is a first-rate virtuoso on the violin, and while his sister, Orli, may be less familiar to listeners, she is arguably at his level of talent in the keyboard world. Together, they mesh as well as one could imagine in these collaborations. Only Kremer and Argerich may be preferable in the sonatas, but even that judgment stands on the thinnest of margins. In fact, given the crystal-clear sonics and more generous offerings here (Kremer/Argerich include only the Five Melodies on their DG CD), I would rate each an equal bargain. Frank Peter Zimmermann and Alexander Lonquich, on a CD once available on EMI and now possibly attainable on Brilliant Classics, also turned in compelling performances of the sonatas, Five Melodies and the Three Oranges March.
The Shahams capture the dark nature of the powerful F minor sonata about as convincingly as anyone. What they may miss is a tad of the ethereal and gossamer character heard in the Kremer/Argerich, but then you get greater weight and a tad more urgency with the Shaham siblings. In the lighter and often playful Op. 94bis (originally written for flute and piano and transcribed by the composer for violin and piano), the two once again are totally convincing, pointing up the wit, the beguiling lyricism (try that catchy third movement, with its almost bluesy alternate theme), and the joy of this splendid work. In the fillers they are equally brilliant. But should I be calling the Five Melodies a filler? Originally written for wordless voice and piano and also transcribed by Prokofieff for violin and piano, a combination far more common in performance, it is a colorful and quite substantial work.
As suggested above the sound is vivid and powerful, and the notes by musicologist, linguist and Prokofieff biographer Harlow Robinson are full of insights and pertinent information. Highly recommended!
Copyright © 2008, Robert Cummings