Those who attended our performance of Gil Shaham Plays the Beethoven Violin Concerto enjoyed an unforgettable performance together in Overture Hall. The concert began with Rachmaninoff’s Isle of the Dead followed by Kodály’s exciting Háry János Suite. The Madison Symphony Orchestra and Gil Shaham concluded the performance with Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major. Read the reviews and view photos from the spectacular performance below!


Bill Wineke / Channel 3000: “MSO Audiences Paid Tribute to Ukraine”

“One question was in the mind of Madison Symphony Orchestra patrons as they found their way to the weekend concerts: Would conductor John DeMain begin the concert with the Ukrainian national anthem?

It was kind of a rhetorical question because we all knew he would.

Still, it seemed a profound moment as some 2,000 local concert goers stood respectfully for the anthem of that far-away nation. The English translation of the anthem, incidentally, is ‘Ukraine Has Not Yet Perished.'”

“It began with Sergei Rachmaninoff’s ‘Isle of the Dead,’ a piece the composer developed after seeing a photograph of a very popular painting depicting a skiff carrying a casket to a dark island.

It was a very beautiful, very somber and very fitting reminder that Russia is bent on destroying a land and a culture.

That was followed by Zoltan Kodaly’s “Suite From the Opera ‘Harry James,’” a light-hearted musical comedy featuring, of all things a “Cimbalom,” a stringed instrument that, from the audience, looks like a kitchen table and is played with small mallets, like a xylophone. It was played by Matthew Coley, an internationally known marimba musician.”

“But, what really anchored the concert was violinist Gil Shaham, who played Beethoven’s “Violin Concerto,” one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written.

There were two things about his performance I hadn’t seen before at MSO concerts.

One was Shaham’s evident joy at playing with the orchestra. When he wasn’t playing his 1699 Stradivarius, he was interacting with the violin section of the orchestra, encouraging any other member of the group who played a solo part, grinning happily and, seemingly, having a wonderful time.

The other thing I hadn’t experienced was the vehement approval he received.

This is Madison. We give everyone a standing ovation. But the audience virtually exploded when Shaham finished.

The concerto, itself, is both lyrical and hopeful. In context, it projected an image of what life may, one day, be again.”

Read the full review

Hear what the audience had to say…​

I enjoyed the Rachmaninoff and Kodaly pieces more than I had expected. The orchestra played them beautifully. But the evening went to Gil Shaham, clearly one of the most renowned violinists ever. Hearing him play the Beethoven concerto was like heaven! PLEASE bring him back to Madison!

We appreciated the excellence of Gil’s violin talent – but more so seeing how much he was enjoying the performance himself! He looked like he was having a grand time! And we were too – feeling that reciprocity was wonderful. We felt very connected to this performance.

Gil Shaham is a superb violinist. I don’t believe anyone in my family has ever heard such polished, inspired playing. The Beethoven violin concerto was an absolute joy to listen to. Thank you!

Watching Gil Shaham in live performance is an unforgettable experience. I was also moved by the display of the Ukrainian flag along with the American flag on stage.

I was amazed by Gil Shaham and his expressive presentation and marvelous ability.

Gil Shaham was outstanding! His expertise and personality was so intriguing.

Gil Shaham’s enthusiasm for his work was mesmerizing-it was a joy to behold and an absolute treat to experience!

This was an absolutely extraordinary concert. Each of the works on the program, being quite diverse in character, were prepared and performed to the highest standards.

Mr. Shaham’s performance was a cut above the usual, which is not to sell any of the previous artists short, but his obvious affinity for the orchestra, John DeMain, the piece, his instrument and the audience was palpable.

Gil Shaham was fabulous. He makes the performance look effortless and clearly was having a great time. Also the selections for the evening coincidently happened to fit with what is going on in the world. Playing the national anthem of Ukraine was very emotional, especially with the audience standing spontaneously. Also I love Kodaly and you don’t get to hear his pieces all that often.

Gil Shaham was completely amazing – what a joy that we have a wonderful conductor here in Madison who can bring such talent to the Overture Center.

Gil Shaham was simply fabulous, but we enjoyed the entire program. Congratulations and thanks to John Demain!

The Kodaly piece and Gil Shaham’s amazing playing. His playing was truly beautiful and his mastery of that incredible instrument created sounds that I have only ever heard a few times in my life. It was one of those rare peak musical experiences!

The special attention paid to the Ukrainian issues with the playing of their national anthem and display of the flag was heartwarming. Gil was fantastic as well.

The Beethoven Concerto performed by Mr. Shaham. It was fantastic – a virtuoso and the orchestra were one – the dynamic contrast from the softest I’ve ever heard a violinist on stage to the full orchestral sound was breath-taking – and the cadenza in the first movement was absolutely both beautiful and mind-boggling.

The dedication of the concert to the people of the Ukraine and starting with their anthem. It brought tears to my eyes as the poignant music played. The Isle of the dead was another piece that provided beautiful reflection. I felt so lucky to be able to see and hear Gil Shaham perform. MSO brings such talented musicians to Madison!

Gil Shazam was fantastic & so passionate.

I don’t know when I’ve heard the MSO sound more lustrous and dynamic. Of course, Shaham’s playing was beyond spellbinding. I loved watching him during the interludes when the orchestra had the spotlight–I truly believe he would like to play every instrument in the entire orchestra (including the trumpet when he twiddled his fingers on his bow hand as the trumpets played the introduction). It was great fun!

Orchestra hall was beautiful, players were talented, and lighting highlighted the players.

Gil was an amazing performer – really fun to watch. The entire program was fantastic.

I feel very deep appreciation for John DeMain: his kindness, devotion to the symphony and local community, and wonderful leadership and talent. He’s doing a good thing, increasing the diversity of music being selected.

The opportunity to see Shaham live. His bow hand was the best I have ever seen, and I have seen a great many!

Shaham was engaging with the audience and with the symphony. My favorite part was the Ukrainian national anthem. It was played so beautifully, I had to blink back tears.

That Beethoven – WOW. That was one of the tightest and best performances I’ve heard from the orchestra ever, in the 20-plus years I’ve been a subscriber, and Mr. Shaham’s clearly expressed joy in the music was nothing short of infectious!

Gil Shaham’s performance, clear joy and exuberance. Conductor DeMain clearly brought the whole orchestra to a level commensurate with Shaham’s performance. We were blown away.

Shaham was stirring as usual, but the first pieces were new to me (although familiar themes from the opera) and was mesmerized by both. It made for a full concert experience that was the best I have experienced with the MSO.

There is only one Gil Shaham, and he is perhaps the most compelling soloist performing today. I left the theatre with a big smile on my face (under my mask), thanks in equal parts to Shaham and to the uncharacteristically warm optimistic music of Beethoven.

Gil Shaham! The best violin performance I have ever attended live. And the orchestra was great too. It was wonderful to see the warmth and rapport between Mr. Shaham, Maestro DeMain, and individual orchestra players.