I do believe that Gil Shaham, violinist extraordinnaire, is one of the happiest people I've ever seen perform at Heinz Hall. He smiled from the moment he walked on stage to the moment he left it. He smiled while he played, he smiled when he didn't play. He just seemed so darn happy on that stage that there were moments during his performances (an exceptional violin concerto from Haydn and a superb, if rather light, violin concerto from Mozart) that I found myself smiling right back at him. I'm not sure if he saw me smiling; I was in row H, but I'm sure he felt it. And what I mean by that is that I certainly felt as if the attitude and atmosphere of the audience was very positive and relaxed and just…Happy! There was definitely something in the air on Friday, and everyone felt it. My friends sitting beside me remarked on Gil's grin and the way he seemed so (sorry to use the word again, but really, I can't use any other) happy to be on stage, as well as the way people around us kept inhaling sharply and gasping in surprise, as if they couldn't believe a single violinist could be so exceptional. I can't blame them. There were moments (especially during Gil's encore) that I found myself doing and thinking the same thing.
As the young kids say, "He's got skills to pay the bills." Or uh, something like that.
Gil's attitude, that I-am-so-blessed-and-happy-to-be-here-performing-for-you, made his playing seem effortless as breathing. No furrowed brows, no deep frowns, no looks of such strict and utter concentration it looked as if he were in pain. Nope. It was like he was adding 2+2 and not performing two very, very intricate works. I, as well as the entire audience, loved watching Gil perform, as it was so very clear Gil loved performing.
It just goes to show that great playing can really impress a person. But great playing with a smile can really astound them.