Yesterday, totally on a whim, Ben and I went to see the Virginia Symphony Orchestra (VSO). Because Gil Shaham was playing with them. GIL SHAHAM!!! For all of you out there who aren’t classical music nerds like me, click the link and you can be educated about this amazing person via Wikipedia. :-)
We had been thinking about trying to attend, but then scrapped those plans for various reasons. But then on the weekend I realized I really, really wanted to go. We weren’t sure if it was too late, but on Sunday we drove to the hall 30 minutes before the concert, just to see if they had any tickets left. And they did. Right in the middle, two rows from the stage.
I don’t know what I was expecting, since I had never seen Gil Shaham before – neither live nor on Youtube or anything like that. I’d heard his CDs, but I hadn’t heard him recently and I hadn’t heard the Barber recently either.
IT WAS AMAZING. UH. MAZE. ING.
The thing about Gil Shaham is, not only is he is one of the very best violinists in the world, he is the most interesting musician I’ve ever seen performing live. Or maybe “interesting” isn’t the right word – more like captivating, engaging? He was so INTO the music …… I would say out of all the hundreds of people in the hall, all of them transfixed by the beautiful music, no one was more swept away by the music than Shaham himself. During the moments when he was not playing and the orchestra was playing, he would look all around him at the orchestra as the music moved the violins to the cellos to the woodwinds, with this totally enraptured look on his face. He looked extremely happy, like he was about to jump up and down or dance around with joy. Seriously! I’ve just never seen anyone perform like that before. And when the music would change and become moody instead of joyful, he would mirror that same feeling with his own body language, whether he was playing or not playing at the moment.
Another unique thing about him was that he acted as though he was not soloing, but rather playing a duet with the conductor (and sometimes with the concertmaster). He moved freely around the stage, sometimes stepping forward and playing right out to the audience, but other times moving very close to the conductor and leaning in as if they were trying to get everything coordinated just right. And other times he would sidle right up to the concertmaster and lean into him while the score had them trading the melody line back and forth. All the while he would be smiling, frowning, and just communicating TONS of expression through his whole body and his violin.
His violin, by the way, was a Stradivarius. It was pretty cool to hear one of those in action. Still going strong, centuries after it was made.
I felt so lucky … just to be able to see and hear such a dazzling, emotional, beautiful performance. I was completely blown away. I laughed. I cried. I was on the edge of my seat … totally caught up in the music, as Shaham himself was. At the end we applauded fiercely for a very long time until he finally played an encore, an amazing virtuosic piece that I think was the Carmen Fantasy but I’m not sure. It was incredible though, and we were so close we could see how his hands moved like lightning across the strings and somehow managed to produce the perfect note ever time.
Anyway ……….. wow. Just wow. I’ve never experienced anything like that, even though I’ve been to many classical music concerts. It was the best of my life, so far.
I’m so glad we got those tickets!