Monday, November 21, 2011

Pianist Lilya Zilberstein

Pianist Lilya Zilberstein gave a solo recital in Vancouver last Friday. Although not quite as familiar to North American concert audiences, Miss Zilberstein, a graduate of Moscow’s Gnessin Pedagogical Institute, is highly regarded in Europe, playing with such artists as Maxim Vengerov and Martha Argerich. Her recording of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd and 3rd piano concerti with Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic is spectacular.

Zilberstein has to be credited with original programming for her recital – Chopin’s Rondo in C Minor, Op. 1, Variations brillantes sur le rondeau favori “Je vends des scapulaires” de Ludovic, Op. 12, and the Sonata in C Minor, Op. 4. After the interval, she essayed Beethoven’s Twenty-four Variations in D Major on the arietta “Venni amore” by Righini and the almost-too-well-known Sonata in F Minor, the “Appassionata.”

Other than the Rondo, Op. 1, the Chopin pieces played in the first half were almost all unfamiliar to me. I had seen the score of the composer’s first piano sonata, but had never heard it played. In these early works by Chopin, we can already hear the characteristics that are unique to the composer. However, I cannot help but feel that Chopin had not yet become the Chopin we know and love in these early compositions. I feel that Chopin, at this stage of his musical development, was still thinking more as a pianist than as a composer. In his mature works, the technical and musical challenges to the pianist are parts of the inherent structure of the music, not difficulties for the sake of pianistic effects. The same can perhaps be said about the set of variations by Beethoven.

Miss Zilberstein’s recital was an incredible display of effortless, immaculate, and impeccable piano playing. She has a perfect technique that allows her to do almost anything at the keyboard. I must confess, however, that I came away unmoved by the music making that evening. At first I thought it was perhaps of the chosen repertoire, but I was equally unaffected emotionally by her playing of Beethoven’s Appassionata.

I hope to hear Ms. Zilberstein again, because she is obviously a very great musical talent and dedicated artist. No musician can really be fairly judged on the strength of a single performance. We must be grateful to Vancouver’s Chopin Society for bringing to our stages such internationally renowned artists for these past years. The large and appreciative audience once again shows that live music is alive and well.

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