Israeli virtuoso violinist Ittai Shapira is
a distnguished performer and composer, the recent disc of performances of his
own compositions on Champs Hill Records (“The Old Man and the Sea” CHRCD032)
demonstrates this admirably.
Ittai Shapira’s American Violin Concertos
disc brings together three diverse concertos whose composers have in common a vivid
and expressive writing style for violin and orchestra.
Italian-‐American composer Menootti wrote
his violin concerto as a tribute to his former teacher the Russian-‐born
violinist Efrem Zimbalist. He managed to capture Zimbalist’s character as a
violinist, ‘noble, fine-‐grained, never extrovert’, in this work without
inhibiting the need for display in a concerto. The virtuosity of the violin is tempered
by the overall tone, which is enigmatic and intimate, with lyrical,
singing lines for the soloist.
Barber’s Violin Concerto was originally
commissioned in early 1939 by the affluent soap manufacturer Samual Fels to be
performed by Fel’s adopted son Iso Briselli. Although Briselli claimed that the
first two movements were ‘too simple, not brilliant enough’ he inevitably found
the finale too taxing and the commission was withdrawn. Barber’s Violin
Concerto was finally premiered in 1941 by Albert Spalding, with the
Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy, and critics hailed it for being
‘refreshingly free from arbitrary tricks and musical mannerisms’ with ‘straightforwardness
and sincerity being among its most engaging qualities’. Since then it has
become a favourite 20th century work for the instrument.
In its world-premiere recording, Washington
born composer Theodore Wiprud’s Violin concerto, ‘Katrina’ was wrtten for Ittai
Shapira. This work is Wiprud’s first concerto for a solo instrument with
orchestra, and reflects not only the devastation and destruction caused
by Hurricane Katrina but a hopeful undercurrent, with emphasis on the
varied and deeply felt musical life of the whole Delta. ‘Katrina’ explores
the power and importance of music in times of struggle;
Please note that, whilst the booklet notes here rely on a number of accepted, published sources, the family of Iso Briselli dispute some of the detail regarding the commissioning of the Barber violin concerto: you may read more at www.isobriselli.com