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Mixed Company®

Mixed Company is written by Saint Paul Sunday staff, giving you a behind-the-scenes look at the show and the classical music they love. We welcome your online comments.

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July 12, 2006

Hommage

Once in a while our guests devote the entire hour to exploring the work of a single composer. The results can be especially compelling—the kind that echo in your mind for days afterward—because they’re inspired by a strongly felt connection. One from the recent past that still resonates for me is Jean-Yves Thibaudet’s touching tribute to Erik Satie. Later this summer two more programs follow suit, though quite differently. In the first David Finckel and Wu Han trace the arc of Beethoven’s cello sonatas. In the second the Emerson String Quartet delves into Dmitri Shostakovich’s often searing string quartet cycle. In each of these programs there’s palpable electricity, whether grounded in great admiration or sheer love, or both.

Nowhere is this affection plainer than in the all-Fauré program Gil Shaham brings to us this week. Gil is himself beloved for the warmth of his playing, a blend of Old World expressiveness and the utter technical fluency his own generation prizes. But what I find even more remarkable about this violinist is his willingness to give himself over wholly to the music—and the composer behind the music—without ever submerging his own voice. In these hypercompetitive, self-aggrandizing times that is in itself an act of rare generosity. More importantly, it’s why Gil's artistry is so deeply affecting. We know with him we’re always getting the real thing. By letting us feel why he’s in love with Fauré, we fall in love with him, too, mystery and all.

Posted by Vaughn Ormseth at July 12, 2006 9:39 AM