Samples & Downloads
Ittai SHAPIRA (b.1973)
The Old Man and the Sea, for violin and orchestra (2011)
Concierto Latino, for violin and orchestra (2008) [26:08]
Caprice Habañera, for solo violin (2010) [3:03]
Ittai Shapira (violin)
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Neil Thomson
London Serenata/Krzysztof Chorzelski
rec. The Friary, Liverpool, 5 January 2012; St Paul's, New Southgate,
London, 26 March 2010 (Concierto); Music Room, Champs Hill, Pulborough,
England, August 2010 (Caprice). DDD
CHAMPS HILL RECORDS CHRCD 032 [52:41]
Israeli-American violinist Ittai Shapira's own Concierto
Latino has already appeared once on disc - it was Champs
Hill indeed who released it last year as a CD 'single' (see
This is the very same recording, repackaged and coupled with
Shapira's latest violin concerto and a short encore piece.
Shapira has made several CDs as a soloist, from his debut in
2000 on EMI Classics, less than warmly reviewed here,
to much more enthusiastically received recent performances,
This is his first full-length monograph as a composer, but Champs
Hill have already released another disc of Shapira as soloist:
a programme of 'American Violin Concertos', featuring classics
by Barber and Menotti, plus a new one, dedicated to Shapira,
from the very much alive Theodore Wiprud (CHRCD 043).
Shapira's Concierto Latino is a memorably orchestrated,
romantic modern masterpiece of its kind, full of imagination,
passion and beautiful melody. Shapira wrote it after being mugged,
of all things, by a gang of thugs in New York in 2005. Subsequent
daily headaches were accompanied by bursts of sound which Shapira
began to write down. This musical response helped the memories
of the attack come back, a process which Shapira found cathartic.
Concierto Latino's first movement is thus entitled 'The
Attack', but, aside from the insistent rhythmic energy, the
horror of the assault is not especially emphasised in the music,
which is surprisingly upbeat. More to the fore are influences
from Shapira's Jewish Middle Eastern background and the Latin
ones which give the work its title. The second movement, 'Lament',
is a reflection on the mugging, and begins wistfully. There
is soon another rhythmically vigorous episode which suggests
the physicality of the attack, but solemn contemplation soon
returns, before yielding to a beautiful melody which, according
to the notes, indicates "resignation and, ultimately, acceptance".
Throughout 'Lament' in particular Shapira plays with great expression
- the music clearly kindles deep feelings. His recovery from
the assault is celebrated in the final movement, tellingly entitled
'Party'. Conga, salsa and rhumba rhythms aided by ethnic drums
and trumpets alternate with more heartfelt optimism, partly
Germanic, partly Sephardic, from Shapira's finely intoned, virtuosic
violin to bring the work to a vivacious conclusion.
The CD opens, however, with Shapira's new Violin Concerto, The
Old Man and the Sea, a work which takes its title from the
Ernest Hemingway novella. Despite a programmatic parallelism,
in Shapira's version there is happily no macho barbarity, or
what the booklet notes call "unflinching yet beautiful detail".
Shapira focuses instead on the vastness and hardness of the
sea, and on the majesty and ferocity of the marlin and shark.
The listener gets twenty-five minutes of orchestral drama and
virtuosic violin-work, not to mention a boatload of audience-friendly
melody splashed with local Caribbean colour. Shapira rounds
off his recital with a short, Wieniawski-style Caprice Habañera.
Shapira insists in the booklet notes that his musical influences
have been not only Villa-Lobos, Manuel de Falla and Osvaldo
Golijov, but also the more unlikely likes of the Buena Vista
Social Club and the Colombian pop singer known as Shakira. She
is no relation and thankfully there is not the merest trace
of any such influence in these works, in which Shapira rather
harks back to the great virtuosic-dramatic violin concertos
of earlier times, but without ever sounding old-fashioned.
As a performer of his own works - though Champs Hill oddly omit
to state explicitly who the violinist is in these recordings!
- he is naturally in his element, and is given tremendous support
from the two ensembles, one famous, one much less so. London
Serenata do not in fact get a mention in the notes, but if it
is any consolation to them, whoever they may be, neither do
the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic! There is, however, plenty
on Shapira and both conductors. Krzysztof Chorzelski is better
known as the Belcea Quartet's violist. Sound quality is good,
if a little lacking in depth and clarity, and the booklet glossy
and informative, albeit the notes do tend towards melodrama.
Those who wisely purchased Shapira's single will feel slightly
aggrieved at paying full price for what amounts to a mere 27
minutes of music. Even those new to all three works will probably
wonder why another of Shapira's works for violin could not be
recorded to fill up the disc a bit. The best value for money
is undoubtedly a download - just over £2 for The Old
Man and the Sea from Amazon, and just a little more direct
from Champs Hill, for example.
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