Ben-Haim: Improvisation and Dance, Op. 30

This page lists all recordings of Improvisation and Dance, Op. 30, by Paul Ben-Haim (1897-1973) on CD & download (MP3 & FLAC).

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Chamber Choice
March 2007

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Music in Exile Vol. 1: Chamber Music by Paul Ben-Haim

Music in Exile Vol. 1: Chamber Music by Paul Ben-Haim


Ben-Haim:

Piano Quartet, Op. 4

Two Landscapes, Op. 27

Improvisation and Dance, Op. 30

Clarinet Quintet, Op. 31a

Canzonetta, Op. 34, No. 4


ARC Ensemble

This is Volume 1 in a new chamber series which explores the music of composers who were forced to flee Europe during the 1930s. The survey begins with works by the German-born Jewish composer Paul Ben-Haim (né Frankenburger) who immigrated to Palestine in October 1933. Ben-Haim was an accomplished pianist, conductor, choral coach, and composer who made a significant cultural contribution to his adoptive country. The list of musicians who commissioned, performed, and recorded his music includes Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman, Menahem Pressler, and Leonard Bernstein. Among the Israeli composers he taught are Eliahu Inbal, Avraham Sternklar, Noam Sheriff, and Shulamit Ran.

The Piano Quartet was completed in Munich during the summer of 1921, long before any thought of emigration. Until the ARC Ensemble’s performance of the work in 2012, it had not been played since a broadcast in July 1932. It it strongly rooted in the music of Brahms, Strauss, Reger, and Fauré, whilst retaining Ben-Haim’s own strength of ideas, sense of form, and bold, confident use of colour.

By the late 1930s / early 1940s, Ben-Haim’s musical language had adapted to life in Palestine, and we find strong Hebraic elements scattered throughout both the Two Landscapes and Improvisation and Dance. The ‘Canzonetta’ is the fourth of the composer’s Five Pieces for Piano, and a direct descendent of the nineteenth century’s Song without Words.

The amalgamation of Eastern and Western influences in Ben-Haim’s life are beautifully realised in the Clarinet Quintet. While the European technique originates in the two mainstays of the clarinet’s chamber repertoire, the quintets by Brahms and Mozart, the ‘Capriccio’ in the Scherzo is a complete quotation of ‘Elohei Tzidki’ (God of my righteousness), a traditional hymn. ‘I was very satisfied,’ wrote the composer, ‘because I felt that I had succeeded in consolidating a new style.’

Over the last ten years the ARC Ensemble (Artists of The Royal Conservatory, Toronto) has become one of Canada’s pre-eminent cultural ambassadors, raising international appreciation of The Royal Conservatory and Canada’s rich musical life. Its first two CDs, On the Threshold of Hope and Right through the Bone (devoted respectively to the music of Mieczysław Weinberg and Julius Röntgen), were both nominated for Grammy Awards in the ‘Best Chamber Music Recording’ category. Its recordings enjoy regular airplay around the world, and its concerts have been broadcast on CBC Radio, National Public Radio in the US, and on public radio throughout Europe.

“All are expertly played by members of the eight-strong ARC Ensemble.” The Observer, 21st July 2013

“The [Piano Quartet's] spirit suggests a clean bill of health to contrast with the feverish outpourings of Vienna's hothouse fin de siecle...Ben-Haim's style has a distinctively lyrical slant all its own...Superb playing by the members of the ARC Ensemble, excellent sound and useful booklet-notes” Gramophone Magazine, September 2013

“It’s all beautifully and wonderfully captured by the players and the Chandos recording team...This is a fascinating disc which begins to open up the world of a truly significant composer who should be much better known.” MusicWeb International, 17th October 2013

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Violin Suites

Violin Suites


Ben-Haim:

Sonata in G minor for solo violin, Op. 44

Berceuse Sfaradite

Improvisation and Dance, Op. 30

Bloch, E:

Baal Shem

Suite Hébraïque

Suite for solo violin No. 1

Suite for solo violin No. 2


Hagai Shaham (violin) & Arnon Erez (piano)

“Both composers are served extremely well on this beautifully recorded disc, Hagai Shaham and Arnon Erez in particular giving a totally convincing performance of Bloch's well-known Baal Shem. Although on the evidence of this disc Ben-Haïm emerges as a less individual creative force than Bloch, the concluding Improvisation and Dance, brilliantly dispatched by both artists, would perhaps make a welcome alternative to Ravel's much-played Tzigane.” BBC Music Magazine, March 2007 *****

“Bloch's two unaccompanied suites date from 1958, the year before his death; they combine a chromatic idiom with a strong sense of tonality.
Occasionally the music seems to lack individuality – the third movement of the First Suite is almost like pastiche Bach and its final cadence is academically predictable – but more often one's attention is caught and held by the expressive melodic writing and, in both suites, by a compelling sense of continuity. Shaham revels in Bloch's demanding yet imaginatively idiomatic violin writing. In the solo suites, as well as the more extravagantly emotional pieces with piano on Jewish themes, he enters wholeheartedly into the feeling of the music yet retains a measure of balance and restraint – the vibrato isn't exaggerated and a feeling of rhapsodic freedom is achieved without sacrificing natural flow.
Bloch's popularity has waned somewhat in recent decades, and the Israeli composer Paul Ben-Haim (1897–1984) is even more poorly represented in the CD catalogue. His Solo Sonata, written for Yehudi Menuhin, is, however, a masterly work, not at all original in form and idiom, perhaps, but full of memorable ideas.
Shaham's playing of the central Lento e sotto voce is stunningly beautiful. And the Improvisationand Dance, a folk-style showpiece after the manner of the Bartók rhapsodies, inspires both Shaham and Erez to brilliant feats of virtuosity.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“Hagai Shaham possesses the ideal kind of silver-toned, narrow-vibratoed purity to make these occasionally melodramatic pieces ring true. Rather than fall back on a well-upholstered, opulent sound, he streamlines his tone, adding a special kind of intensity to Bloch’s soaring climaxes. Shaham strikes just the right balance between interpretative cool and swashbuckling bravado in Baal Shem … the recording is excellent throughout’” The Strad

BBC Music Magazine

Chamber Choice - March 2007

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