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Shulamit RAN (b. 1949)
Legends (1992-93, rev. 2001) [20:26]
Violin Concerto (2002-03) [31:52]
Ittai Shapira (violin)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Daniel Barenboim
BBC Concert Orchestra/Charles Hazlewood
rec. 3-5, 8 June, 2006, Chicago (Legends); 5 June 2003, London (Concerto).
ALBANY TROY970 [52:18]


Experience Classicsonline

The Israeli-born born composer Shulamit Ran was a student of Paul Ben-Haim. She was able to continue her studies in the USA with Norman Dello Joio and later with Ralph Shapey.

Her Legends is a bipartite work. It was written during her residency (1990-97) with the Chicago Symphony who premiered it on 7 October 1993. The commissioning of the work was supported by the AT&T Foundation and Meet-the-Composer Orchestra Residencies Program for the centennials of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the University of Chicago, Orchestra Hall, Chicago. In the liner-note Ran makes it clear that she had no specific legends in mind but she refers to the fantasy realms and invokes heroism, mystery and wonder. It's busy with the full palette of textures and effects. There's no mistaking that this is a work of brilliance and upheaval. A less exuberant and less catastrophically violent tone is struck in the second segment. It is no less otherworldly with a warm viola solo and iridescent textures buzzingly suggestive of the Thousand and One Nights. The work finally fades into the shimmering heat-haze of a distant horizon. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Ranís work-list includes East Wind (1987) and Mirage (1990) although I have not heard them. The piece receives a virtuoso outing from Ran's orchestra and its distinguished conductor.

The Violin Concerto was premiered by Ittai Shapira with the same conductor directing the Orchestra of St Lukes on 13 June 2003 at Carnegie Hall. Ran has also written Yearning (1995) for violin and string orchestra. The Violin Concerto is, in its first movement, moodily brilliant, giving the impression of being constantly in flight although it does have some reflective episodes. The world established by the composer is that of a mildly dissonant version of the Szymanowski concertos. The central movement has elements of a grouchy and buzzingly irritable scherzo yet ends with a sustained passage in alt for the solo instrument. The finale is peaceful. Ran intended that the concerto should explore various aspects of the violin's soul. This she does in its devilish brilliance, its consolatory voice and its seductive honeyed song.

Shapira is a brilliant artist and has recorded extensively for ASV-Sanctuary including the concertos by Menotti, Dave Heath and Barber and for EMI the Bruch. He also premiered the Concerto by Avner Dorman. He studied violin in Israel with Ilona Feher and then at Juilliard with Dorothy DeLay and Robert Mann.

It would be good to hear more of Shulamith Ranís music, especially where, as in the second part of Legends and the finale of the concerto, she exposes the vulnerable humanity of her inspiration.

The Concerto was recorded in front of an invited audience on 5 June 2003 for the BBC Radio 3 programme, Discovering Music. It was a commission by David Bowerman for Ittai Shapira.

Rob Barnett

see also Shulamith Ran's website




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