Performance Sunday, October 25, 2015 | 7 PM

Gil Shaham
David Michalek

Bach Six Solos for Violin with Original Films

Zankel Hall
Gil Shaham performs Bach’s monumental and spiritually profound works for solo violin, perhaps the most technically challenging music ever written for the instrument. The Baltimore Sun has written, “It’s hardly news that Shaham is an impeccable violinist, one capable of bringing out the mechanics and the majesty of Bach in equal measure.” Shaham’s performance is accompanied by newly commissioned films by David Michalek, an artist inspired by movement and gesture.


  • Gil Shaham, Violin
  • David Michalek, Original Films


  • BACH Solo Violin Sonatas and Partitas (complete) (film by David Michalek; NY Premiere, co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall)

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately three hours, including two 20-minute intermissions.


  • Gil Shaham

    Gil Shaham is one of the foremost violinists of our time; his flawless technique combined with his inimitable warmth and generosity of spirit has solidified his renown as an American master. Highlights of his 2015-2016 season include performances with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, New World Symphony, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra; residencies with Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and Carolina Performing Arts; and an extensive North American tour with The Knights to celebrate the release of 1930s Violin Concertos, Vol. 2.

    Mr. Shaham already has more than two-dozen concerto and solo CDs to his name, including bestsellers that have ascended the charts in the US and abroad. These recordings have earned multiple Grammy Awards, a Grand Prix du Disque, Diapason d'Or, and Gramophone Editor's Choice. His recent recordings are issued on his own Canary Classics label, which he founded in 2004, and include 1930s Violin Concertos, Vols. 1 and 2; J. S. Bach: Sonatasand Partitas; Nigunim: Hebrew Melodies; Haydn violin concertos and Mendelssohn's Octet with the Sejong Soloists; Sarasate: Virtuoso Violin Works; Elgar's Violin Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; and Bach's complete works for solo violin. A passionate advocate for new music, Mr. Shaham has also premiered new works by William Bolcom, David Bruce, Avner Dorman, Julian Milone, and Bright Sheng.

    Mr. Shaham was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 1990, and in 2008, he received the coveted Avery Fisher Prize. He plays the 1699 "Countess Polignac" Stradivarius, and lives in New York City with his wife, violinist Adele Anthony, and their three children.

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  • David Michalek

    Born and raised in California, David Michalek lives and works in New York City. While in college, Mr. Michalek assisted photographer Herb Ritts, and for several years following graduation, he worked as a commercial photographer with an emphasis on fashion and celebrity. Since 2001, he redirected his focus to creating his own work, which ranges from photography, video/sound installations, and live performance to site-specific works of public art.

    Face and body as prime mediums of affective expression and communication have been a consistent presence in his work. This concentration is explored through the use of performance techniques, storytelling, movement, and gesture in both live and recorded contexts.

    Mr. Michalek's work in video has been focused on capturing marginal moments with minimal action-carefully staged-that develop density through the interplay of image, sound, and most especially time. Exploring notions of durational and rhythmic time (as opposed to the referential time used in cinema) in both form and content, his works engage in intimate yet open narratives. His recent work considers the potentiality of various forms of slowness alongside an examination of contemporary modes of public attention.

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In the Artist's Own Words

When Gil Shaham and I met in 2013 to consider crafting films for an evening of Bach Six Solos, I was humbled by the task and excited by the challenge. Shortly after this, I found myself in the home of a collector who had two of my own works in video on her wall: side-by-side, single close-ups of her boys, five and seven. Using a high-speed camera, I had slowed these portraits to such a degree that, at first glance, they don’t seem to be moving (a viewer might find themselves somewhat surprised to see an occasional blink forming slowly in time). Gazing upon them, I realized that the music playing over the sound system, Bach’s unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 5 in C Minor, seemed to be engaging in a subtle kind of dialogue with the boys’ faces as they moved through a rich texture of micro-stages in between recognizable or discrete actions or emotional states. At times, it even seemed as though the stages themselves had been prompted by a musical event. In the days following, I invited Gil over to my home to watch these and other similar videos alongside sections of Bach’s solo violin works. We both agreed there was a certain pleasure in the pairing, but more important, the process seemed to encourage and afford deeper listening as well as seeing. We decided to give it a go.

As a contemporary artist with a particular interest in motion pictures and time, I’ve been compelled to consider how the addition of extreme slow motion might be applied to moving images of the face, the body (and by extension, dance), obliquely narrative tableaus, and also still life in ways that can both enhance and alter the meanings latent within them. As a visual strategy, extreme slowness creates a continuing sense of pause within the action—as if the growth and evolution of the slow-moving image is itself a further manifestation of the deep and consuming absorptive state that often arises while observing it.

It is clear that Bach devoted a significant portion of his life to composing dance music, and these three partitas are no small example of that. But if dance was my point of entry for the partitas (even looking into the dance forms for which Bach makes music, such as the bourrée, allemande, corrente, and gavotte), what eventually began to take shape was the cultivation of dance and movement of a broader type—one that could spark the kinesthetic imagination of each viewer while not fighting with the tempo of the music in live performance.

Another point of entry came from the now much discussed references that Bach built into each of the three successive partita-sonata couplings: the Christmas Story, the Passion, and Pentecost. While I didn’t want to manifest these references directly, I did use basic themes of birth, death, and rebirth as blueprints or inspirations for the creation of images.

—David Michalek 

Program Notes


Major support for the 125 Commissions Project is provided by the Howard Gilman Foundation.
Additional funding is provided by members of Carnegie Hall's Composer Club.
This performance is part of Chamber Sessions II.

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