Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Silver-Garburg Piano Duo performs at the Eden-Tamir Music Center (Jerusalem)

The magical, tranquil vista of the Jerusalem village of Ein Kerem glistened in the winter morning sunshine, welcoming crowds of people to spend time there and enjoy the surroundings. Offering a variety of weekly concerts, the Eden–Tamir Music Center situated in the village was founded in 1968 by renowned duo-pianists Bracha Eden and Alexander Tamir. The concert on December 26th 2015 hosted duo-pianists Sivan Silver and Gil Garburg. Introducing the artists, Prof. Alexander Tamir referred to his predilection for the duo-piano genre, both on two pianos and on one.

Silver and Garburg opened with Saint Saëns’ arrangement of Franz Liszt’s Sonata in B-minor S.178. The original solo piano sonata, dedicated to Schumann (already in the asylum) dates from 1854. Saint Saëns transcribed it for two pianos in 1914 but it took till 2004 to see it published.  Close friends, Liszt and Saint Saëns played as a piano duo for some 20 years.  For Silver and Garburg, taking on board the mammoth proportions of the sonata’s four-movements-all rolled-into-one-continuum meant orchestrating the work’s gestures and its variety of emotions with precision, a well mapped-out plan of action, crystal clear phrasing, articulacy and a masterful use of textures. Creating a vibrant canvas whose motivic units (sometimes the same motif) transformed from the menacing and demonic to the lyrical, heartrending and vulnerable, the artists used strategic timing and the wealth of pianistic textures so readily accessible to them, guiding the audience through the work’s uncompromising agenda with suspense and excitement. 

Completed in 1828, shortly before his death, Franz Schubert’s Fantasie in F-minor for piano four hands (one piano) D.940, dedicated to Karoline Esterhazy, the composer’s former pupil with whom he had spent many hours playing duets, is the last and one of the most poetic of the composer’s  some 60 piano duets. Like the Liszt sonata, it also consists of four, interconnected movements. At the Ein Kerem concert, with Silver playing the primo, the pianists struck a fine and subtle balance throughout in this moving and sensitive tribute to the composer. Strategic pauses and tastefully flexed tempi brought about changes in mood, with the artists’ drawing attention to an occasional single altered note, issuing in a new key, so intrinsic to Schubert’s compositional thinking. In a performance that was insightful and highly communicative, Silver and Garburg brought out the work’s delicacy, its Romantic charm and nostalgia, their playing of the more energetic, dancelike sections never overpowering or thick in texture. The fugue, taken at a moderate tempo and rich in dynamic variety, was carefully enunciated. Silver and Garburg’s reading of the work was objective and intelligent, but also real and empathic in its expression, indeed a summary of Schubert’s emotional world.
The program concluded with Saint Saëns’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, arranged for two pianos by Claude Debussy. It was originally composed for violin and orchestra in 1863, the brilliant solo to be played by the great Spanish violin virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate. Silver and Garburg gave this concert piece humor and eloquence, presenting it with more sophistication than is often heard on the concert platform. Spelling out the Introduction with suave subtlety, its Romantic theme creating a languid mood, they then to break into the Rondo, skillfully playing with textures, with the piece’s varied temperament and its somewhat exotic Spanish flavor.  Gil Garburg talked about Debussy’s elegant two-piano arrangement of the work and the thread connecting all three works on the program.
For an encore, Sivan Silver and Gil Garburg performed the spicy miniature “Danse russe” from Stravinsky’s “Petrushka”, a rhythmic tour-de-force, the artists’ playing bristling with joy and the clarity of light textures. So effective on the piano, the listener was reminded that Stravinsky did indeed compose at the piano. 

Among today’s leading piano duos, Israeli pianists Sivan Silver and Gil Garburg have been playing together for 17 years. With their aim to adapt programs to each event and audience and to perform the many compositions for four hands – both those well-known and those less familiar to the public - their busy performing schedule of recitals and appearances with orchestras takes them all over the world. In 2014, the Graz University of the Arts chose the two artists to receive professorships for duo piano. Previous to that, they taught at the Hannover Conservatory, where they themselves had completed studies in 2007 under Arie Vardi.   A duo in real life, Sivan Silver and Gil Garburg live in Berlin with their son. This was the Silver-Garburg Duo’s first performance at the Eden-Tamir Music Center. 

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