Saturday, September 26, 2015

Three piano duos perform at a benefit concert in Tel Aviv for the Tel-Hai International Piano Master Classes

“A Celebration of Two Pianos”, a benefit concert for the Tel Hai International Piano Master Classes, took place at the Felicja Blumental Music Center, Tel Aviv, on September 15th 2015. Performing at the concert were duo-pianists and teachers of the Tel-Hai course Tami Kanazawa and Yuval Admony, as well two young duos - Guy and Alon Ostrun and Rinat Tsodyks and Oren Lok.

Since its establishment in 1992, the Tel-Hai International Piano Master Classes have been attracting celebrated teachers and outstanding young pianists from more than 30 countries to engage in all aspects of piano performance. A summer school known for its dedicated work, its uncompromising standards and warm, encouraging atmosphere, several of its alumni have gone on to prestigious performing careers. In addition to the intensive tuition they receive, participants are encouraged to perform in public concerts. At the time of the Second Lebanese War, the course was moved from the Tel-Hai Academic College in the far north of Israel to the unique and inspiring desert-scape of Midreshet Sde Boker in the Negev, where it has remained.  All master classes and concerts take place in the George Evans Auditorium of the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben Gurion University of the Negev. The piano duo course was begun there in 2005. It is taught by Tami Kanazawa and Yuval Admony. Winners of several international competitions and awards and appearing in over 20 countries, the husband-and-wife team performs and teaches and has recorded for the Naxos and Romeo Records labels. In addition to their teaching at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music (Tel Aviv University), the two artists hold master classes worldwide.

The program opened with Franz Liszt’s “Concerto Pathétique” S258, the composer’s 1856 arrangement for two pianos of his Grosses Konzertsolo and was performed by 20-year-old twins Guy and Alon Ostrun, students of the Tel-Hai International Piano Master Classes. Taking on the ambitious challenges of this two-piano extravaganza, the young pianists orchestrated the intensity of the work’s “tutti” sections, capturing the dreamy mood and Romantic outpouring of the central movement and indulging in many cantabile and personally expressed moments. This was certainly a fine effort at performing a work that is gregarious and thrilling, a vehicle of both pathos and strength. Where the Ostruns’ playing occasionally fell short on eloquence, it certainly made up in youthful energy and sincerity. Guy and Alon Ostrun later performed the two-piano version of Maurice Ravel’s “La Valse”, the composer’s own transcription, a work replete with virtuosity, technical brilliance and richness, described by the composer himself as a “sort-of homage to the memory of the Great Strauss, not Richard, the other – Johann”. The Ostrun twins’ playing evoked the work’s glittering and opulent  homage to the Viennese waltz, its nostalgia, sweeping movements and twirling figurations, and it also made reference  to Ravel’s comment on corruption in society and on warfare, as expressed in work’s percussiveness, distortion and dissonance…these complexities, both technical and emotional, must certainly present a challenge to very young artists. The brothers, however, highlighted different characteristics of the various waltzes, also expressing Ravel’s message of destruction. Students of Tami Kanazawa and Yuval Admony, Guy and Alon Ostrun are winners of the Young Artists’ Competition and have been performing in the Tel-Hai course concerts for the last three years.

As a piano duo formed over the last year, Rinat Tsodyks and Oren Lok, both also pursuing solo careers, aim to perform a variety of new and interesting repertoire. They have given recitals in halls, at art exhibitions and at private functions. They were pronounced Most Distinguished Musicians at the 2015 IBLA Grand Prize (Italy) for their performance of Oren Lok’s composition “Humoresque”, playing Lok’s two-piano version of the original orchestral setting. The composition itself also received a Special Mention. Tsodyks and Lok performed the work at the concert at the Blumental Center. As a virtuosic symphonic overture composed in rich tonal language, Lok’s work makes reference to the music of J.S.Bach, to symphonies of the 19th century, to jazz, musicals and to Hassidic music. Here, Lok is joining the new movement of composers wishing to revive tonality, turning his back on the avant-gardism that has dominated music since the 2nd World War. Creating the piece’s intensive canvas of ideas and styles in rapid flow and with ceaseless energy, Tsodyks and Lok’s playing evoked the orchestral origins of the piece articulately - its whimsy, its dance moments and its occasional moments of furtive reticence, all threaded through the busy collage of textures. The artists’ easeful, musical playing of this highly layered score placed the work’s richness and exuberance at the fore, offering the audience much enjoyment. Rinat Tsodyks and Oren Lok are graduates of the Tel-Hai International Master Classes.

Tami Kanazawa and Yuval Admony concluded the concert with Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Suite no.2 for two pianos opus 17. Admony, offering information on the artists and works throughout the concert, explained that this work had come after the composer’s three-year silence that followed a disastrous premiere of his Symphony No.1 and the caustic comments when Rachmaninoff played his music to Tolstoy two years later. It seems the composer’s confidence was restored with the help of a hypnotherapist, who also happened to be an amateur musician. Completed in 1901, Rachmaninoff, a highly renowned pianist himself, and his cousin and teacher Alexander Siloti premiered the work at a concert of the Moscow Philharmonic Society the same year. In a work that has too often been performed as a muscular show of piano acrobatics, Kanazawa and Admony kept well clear of this approach, having much to say about the music and its emotional and stylistic agenda, from the opening movement, chiseled effectively with its chiaroscuro contrasts and varied textures, followed by the 2nd movement Waltz. Here, we heard the fast devil-may-care vibrancy of the waltz punctuated by small, strategic hesitations, there to announce a new idea, as the artists dipped into their extensive palette to suggest different moods, to flex, to offer cantabile- and velvety melodies in what one could only consider as music of the senses. With the same motif sometimes moving from piano to piano, the pianists’ even balance and consummate artistry led the listener to endeavor to follow the musical line… if not aurally, at least visually. Then, in the exquisitely fashioned Romance, its interlacing melodies and rich melodies swelling up from an arpeggiated accompaniment, Kanazawa and Admony took the listener into the pensive, Romantic setting of moving melody and harmony. Following this, the artists kept audience members at the edge of their seats with expectation as they gave the virtuosic Tarantella a good dose of feisty energy and excitement, served by their large textural and dynamic range, however, never ignoring the need to contrast. A work not heard often enough, Tami Kanazawa and Yuval Admony’s precision and attention to the detail of Rachmaninoff’s Suite No.2 gave the score life, meaning and the pleasure of music-making.

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