- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 2, 2001

Violinist Gil Shaham made his performing debut at age 10 with the Israeli National Orchestra, and the world saw the birth of a world-class violinist's career.

Mr. Shaham looks at tapes of that performance now and cringes.

"I played really terribly," Mr. Shaham says during a phone conversation this week from his home in New York, "but I remember having a great time."

"That's still true," Mr. Shaham adds, reflecting on a schedule that will carry him across the globe in the coming months.

Mr. Shaham brings his much-heralded violin skills to Wolf Trap tonight as the featured violinist with the National Symphony Orchestra under guest conductor Thomas Wilkins of the Florida Orchestra.

Among the program's songs are Antonin Dvorak's "Carnival" Overture, Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky's "1812" Overture complete with live cannon fire and Johannes Brahms' Violin Concerto.

"I don't like to pick favorites, but if my back is to the wall, that's my favorite," he says of the latter.

The 30-year-old violinist speaks fondly of both Wolf Trap and his accompanying orchestra for the evening, a group he says produces at "the highest level of music making."

The musician, who lives in New York City with his wife, violinist Adele Anthony, says he doesn't consider himself particularly gifted. This comes from someone who filled in for Itzhak Perlman when he was 16. He prefers to label himself "lucky" and "grateful" for the chance to establish so many friendships with musicians worldwide.

His 2000-01 season included appearances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the National Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, among others. On a global scale, his agenda is highlighted by a series of 10 concerts in Japan with the NHK Symphony and recitals in Seoul and Hong Kong.

Mr. Shaham, an Illinois native who plays nearly 80 concerts a year, moved with his parents in 1973 to Israel, where he began violin studies with Samuel Bernstein of the Rubin Academy of Music. His sister would become a pianist, and his father, though a scientist, would blare classical music from the speakers of the family car, conducting away as he drove.

The young violinist faced a career crisis at 16, when he wasn't sure music would be his career. In the end, he made what he considers a selfish decision. "When you're playing and it's going well, that's a great feeling," says Mr. Shaham, who plays the 1699 "Countess Polignac" Stradivarius. "Besides, it's the only skill I ever picked up."

He won a Grammy in 1999 for his recital album "American Scenes" with Andre Previn at the piano. Recent releases include a Bartok disc (the Violin Concerto No. 2 and the two Rhapsodies for Violin and Orchestra) with Pierre Boulez and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which earned two Grammy nominations.


WHAT: The National Symphony Orchestra, with featured violinist Gil Shaham and guest conductor Thomas Wilkins.

WHERE: Wolf Trap's Filene Center, 1624 Trap Road, Vienna

WHEN: 8:15 tonight

TICKETS: $15 to $34

PHONE: 703/218-6500 or online at www.wolftrap.org

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