Violinist calls Philadelphia Orchestra gig ‘highlight of my year’

Gil Shaham will show off his famous violin skills with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Gil Shaham will show off his famous violin skills with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Violinist Gil Shaham has some music picked out in case he ever finds himself with a lot of free time.

Brahms’ Violin Concerto, he says, “would be one of the musical masterpieces that I would take with me if I was going to be marooned on a desert island.”

The Grammy winner will be in town this week to play the Brahms piece with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

“Performing with the Philadelphia Orchestra is like playing in the NBA All-Star game,” he says. “It’s the highlight of my year. They play at such a high level.”

Shaham is bringing an all-star instrument: He’ll perform on a Stradivarius — but he says he puts the multimillion-dollar price tag out of his head, joking that the violin is worth $16.99, the year it was made, plus taxes and delivery.

Things were a little tenser the one time he thought he lost it.

“I finished a fantastic meal in Rome. I had already crossed the street when I realized that I had left the violin by my seat,” he says. “I panicked. Luckily, the violin was still there.”

When the Strad was originally offered to him, Shaham, who had already filled in for Itzhak Perlman when the famous violinist had to bow out of a concert series with the London Symphony Orchestra, had trouble getting a loan to buy it. “I was in my 20s, didn’t have a college degree, and was asking to borrow millions of dollars to purchase a violin,” he says. “Then I remembered that I had the business card of Hans Baer, whose family owned the Julius Baer bank. He had come backstage when I played in Geneva and said to call him if I needed anything. I called and his bank helped me buy the violin.”

If you go

Gil Shaham Plays Brahms
May 23-25 (May 23 sold out)
Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center
300 S. Broad St.
$86-$192
www.kimmelcenter.org


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