Gil Shaham, the Iserali-American violinist, is famous since I was in middle school (or before that). Tonight, in 2014, April, I saw him with James Conlon playing with NSO the Korngold violin concerto.
Mr Shaham is known for his warmth in his performance. He has a unique manner that you can see in his constant smile and lively facial expressions that conveys his excitement. But in the same time, he delivers the best technique and musical expression with such great ease, not feeling serious at all. Everything he does seemed so easy while it represents some most sophisticated techniques on violin.
This is the efficacy of music therapy at its best: my attention was sucked in, in this 20 or so minute concerto, completely by the charms and emotions and techniques of Shaham. I felt a constant amazement and such joy that it made me forgot all about my sickness and whatever may cause me stress in life. This is the best musical performance: the one that heals, but drawing your utter and complete focus and attention to it and enjoying every second of it, even if it only lasts a few minutes, and in the end left you wanting to hear more.
The audiences were not super stubborn in hearing an encore, so we hear Brahms' Variation on a Theme by Hadyn next. It was a great work of structure and counterpoint, not to mention that twist about the identity of its theme not being by Hadyn, and the peculiar flavor that atypical 10-measure phrase (5*2) brings. This manifests a point that classical music is best appreciated with cultivated listeners, with knowledge and intellectual satisfaction that helps you understand and be entertained by what's going on. If you don't know anything about the structure, it's just purely boring. That is a point true even for me, who played piano and violin for many years and still finds the easiest time enjoying a piece of solo work or concerto. Other more polyphonic, on the other hand, does require more understanding and work to appreciate.
This is also a special concert in the sense that James Conlon, who is a foremost conductor in the world today (and who has conducted several hundreds of Met operas), gave a short introduction (about 4 minutes but feels pretty long, in a good way) about the work performed today. This include his attempt to revive lesser-known works by Alexander Zemlinsky, an Austria-born composer around the turn of the 20th century, and his ties to Alma, Gustav Mahler, and Korngold, and of course, the great Johann Brahms..