Gil Shaham is an American violinist of Jewish descent. He was born in Urbana, Illinois, while his parents, Israeli scientists, were on an academic fellowship at the University of Illinois. His father Jacob was an astrophysicist, and his mother, Meira Diskin, was a cytogeneticist. His sister is the pianist Orli Shaham. He is a graduate of the Horace Mann School in Riverdale, New York. The family returned to Jerusalem when Gil was 2. At the age of 7, he began taking violin lessons from Samuel Bernstein at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem, , receiving annual scholarships from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation. In 1980, when Shaham was 9 years old, he played for Isaac Stern, Nathan Milstein and Henryk Szeryng, and attended the Aspen Music School in Colorado, studying with Dorothy DeLay (the teacher of many other leading artists, including Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman and Sarah Chang) and Jens Ellermann.
In 1981, at age 10, while studying with Haim Taub in Jerusalem, Gil Shaham debuted as soloist with the Jerusalem Symphony, conducted by the violinist Alexander Schneider. Less than a year later he performed with Israel's foremost orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, which was conducted by Zubin Mehta. At age 11, in 1982, he won first prize in the Claremont Competition and was admitted to the Juilliard School in New York, where he studied with Dorothy DeLay and Hyo Kang. In addition, both he and his younger sister, the pianist Orli Shaham, attended Columbia University. In 1990 Shaham received the Avery Fisher Career Grant. In 1992 he was awarded the Premio Internazionale of the Accademia Chigiana in Siena.
Gil Shaham's career took off in 1989 when he was called upon to replace an ailing Itzhak Perlman for a series of concerts with Michael Tilson Thomas and the London Symphony Orchestra. Taking time out from his studies at the Horace Mann School (where he was a senior), he flew to London at short notice, then performed the Bruch and Sibelius violin concertos, for which he garnered glowing reviews.
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. The Grammy Award-winner, also named Musical America’s “Instrumentalist of the Year,” is sought after throughout the world for concerto appearances with leading orchestras and conductors, and regularly gives recitals and appears with ensembles on the world’s great concert stages and at the most prestigious festivals.
Gil Shaham has performed with many of the world's leading orchestras, among them the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Berliner Philharmoniker, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Wiener Philharmoniker, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Russian National Orchestra, Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, and National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America, as well as chamber orchestras as Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. His chamber ,usic pateners include the pianists Andreas Haefliger, Ian Hobson, David Lively Orli Shaham (his sister); the violinist Adele Anthony (his wife); the cellist Ralph Kirshbaum; and the guitarist Sharon Isbin.
Last season (2013-2014) saw the release of 1930s Violin Concertos (Vol. 1), the first double album to be yielded by Gil Shaham’s long-term programming project, which was recorded live with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Dresden Staatskapelle, and Sejong. In live performance, he played 1930's concertos by Béla Bartók, Prokofiev, Samuel Barber, Alban Berg, and Benjamin Britten with such eminent ensembles as the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Radio-Symphonie-Orchester-Berlin, Bayerischer Rundfunk Symphonieorchester, and Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Orchestra of the USA, which he joined as guest soloist on its inaugural national tour. Among his other orchestral collaborations, Shaham reprised Korngold’s concerto, of which he has long been recognized as one of the foremost exponents, with the Wiener Philharmoniker at Carnegie Hall and with orchestras including the National Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, and France’s Orchestre de Paris, as well as giving the world, Asian, and European premieres of a new concerto by Bright Sheng. Shaham also gave his signature recitals of unaccompanied J.S. Bach in Baltimore, Cleveland, and on tour in Italy.
Gil Shaham headlines a Parisian-themed opening-night gala with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra this fall (2014), launching a new season that sees him rejoin the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra under Michael Tilson Thomas for W.A. Mozart's “Turkish” concerto, and, on the orchestra’s 20th-anniversary tour, for Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto at venues including Carnegie Hall. The Prokofiev also serves as the vehicle for his collaboration with The Knights at the Caramoor Fall Festival, and is one of the works showcased in his long-term exploration of “Violin Concertos of the 1930s.” Now entering its sixth season, this project takes him back to the Philadelphia Orchestra for Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto, and to both the Radio-Symphonie-Orchester-Berlin and the London Symphony Orchestra for B. Britten. Besides giving the world premiere performances of a new concerto by David Bruce with the San Diego Symphony, the violinist’s upcoming orchestral highlights also include Felix Mendelssohn in Tokyo, Canada, and Luxembourg, and two J.S. Bach's concertos with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. In recital, he presents J.S. Bach's complete solo sonatas and partitas (BWV 1001-1006) at Chic’s Symphony Center, L.A.’s Disney Hall, and other venues in a special multimedia collaboration with photographer and video artist David Michalek.
Gil Shaham already has more than two dozen concerto and solo CD's to his name, including bestsellers that have ascended the record charts in the USA and abroad. These recordings have earned prestigious awards, including multiple Grammys, a Grand Prix du Disque, Diapason d’Or, and Gramophone Editor’s Choice. His recent recordings are issued on the Canary Classics label, which he founded in 2004. They comprise Haydn Violin Concertos and F. Mendelssohn’s Octet with the Sejong Soloists; Sarasate: Virtuoso Violin Works with Adele Anthony, Akira Eguchi, and Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León; Edward Elgar’s Violin Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and David Zinman; The Butterfly Lovers and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with the Singapore Symphony; Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in A with Yefim Bronfman and cellist Truls Mork; "The Prokofiev Album" and "Mozart in Paris", both with his sister, pianist Orli Shaham; The Fauré Album with Akira Eguchi and cellist Brinton Smith; and Nigunim: Hebrew Melodies, also recorded with Orli Shaham, which features the world premiere recording of a sonata written for the violinist by Avner Dorman. Recently released titles include J.S. Bach's complete solo sonatas and partitas (BWV 1001-1006).
His awards include: Awards: Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance: André Previn & Gil Shaham for American Scenes (Works of Copland, Previn, Barber, Gershwin) (1999); Avery Fisher Award (2008) Presented by his dear friend Gustavo Dudamel at a Live from Lincoln Center private presentation of the music of Pablo de Sarasate in the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse. In 2012, he was named “Instrumentalist of the Year” by Musical America, which cited the “special kind of humanism” with which his performances are imbued.
Gil Shaham plays a Stradivarius violin from the "long pattern" period, the "Comtesse de Polignac" of 1699. It was offered to Shaham on loan, in 1989, by the Stradivarius Society of Chicago. He is married to the Australian-born violinist Adele Anthony. They live in New York City and have three children, Elijah, Ella Mei and Simon.