Vancouver Symphony Orchestra to feature two pianists

They will bring Mozart concerto to life

Published:

 

o What: Orli Shaham and Igal Kesselman play Mozart's concerto for two pianos with the Vancouver Symphony under Salvador Brotons.

o When: 3 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday.

o Where: Skyview High School Concert Hall, 1300 N.W. 139th St., Vancouver.

o Cost: $50 reserved; $35 general; $30 seniors; $10 students.

o Information: 360-735-7278 or Vancouver Symphony Orchestra website.

o What: Orli Shaham and Igal Kesselman play Mozart’s concerto for two pianos with the Vancouver Symphony under Salvador Brotons.

o When: 3 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday.

o Where: Skyview High School Concert Hall, 1300 N.W. 139th St., Vancouver.

o Cost: $50 reserved; $35 general; $30 seniors; $10 students.

o Information: 360-735-7278 or Vancouver Symphony Orchestra website.

“We are doing the original gender performance,” said Orli Shaham with a laugh. Shaham was referring to the Mozart concerto for two pianos that will feature her and Igal Kesselman with the Vancouver Symphony this weekend. Mozart wrote the concerto for two pianos so that he could play it with his sister Maria Anna, who Mozart referred to as “Nannerl.”

“It will be sort of like the authentic version,” added Shaham, “I will play the first piano part, which was played by Nannerl, and Igal will play the second piano part, which is what Mozart played.”

“The first piano is written in a higher register than the second,” noted Kesselman. “The writing is very beautiful and complementary in the sense that Mozart generously threads the musical material between the two pianists. Sometimes they repeat the musical material in slightly different ways. Sometimes they play together in a complementary fashion. It’s a dialogue or conversation between two people who like each other and get along in a playful way. They share thoughts and musical ideas. Sometimes the music is vigorous and lyrical. Other times, it is delicate and refined.”

The two grand pianos will be placed on stage in front of the orchestra so that the pianists can face each other. The trick will be to balance the sound with each other and with the orchestra.

“Some of the passages are exchanged from one pianist to the other and then to the orchestra,” remarked Shaham. “It’s as if the orchestra is the third pianist.”

Although Shaham has performed this piece with several pianists, this will be the first time for her to play it with Kesselman. Both pianists grew up in Israel, received numerous America-Israel Cultural Foundation Scholarships, and now live in New York City. Shaham studied at The Juilliard School. She has won the Gilmore Young Artist Award and the Avery Fisher Career Grant and performs regularly all over the world. Shaham is also the sister of renowned violinist Gil Shaham.

Kesselman was a top prizewinner at “Citta de Marsala” International Piano Competition in Italy and has performed as a soloist with many orchestras in the U.S. and Israel. He is also the director of Kaufman Music Center’s Lucy Moses School, New York City’s largest community arts school, and serves as the chair of the New York chapter of the National Guild for Community Arts Education. He recently returned from a tour in Israel, where he taught master classes and judged young pianists in Tel Aviv.

Shaham and Kesselman prefer to practice the Mozart concerto at the Kaufman Center.

“I have two pianos,” said Shaham, “but they are not in the same room. So the Kaufmann Center works out really well. Igal is my son’s piano teacher. So right before my son has a lesson, Igal and I can have a quick rehearsal.”

According to Shaham, Kesselman’s approach to sound on the keyboard is close to hers.

“Because it is easy to produce sounds on the piano,” explained Shaham, “many pianists go for a long time without questioning the kind of sound that they are producing. Igal is not one of those pianists. He has spent a long time thinking about sound and how he would like to coax it out of the instrument. I am of the same ilk. So it is fun to play piano with him.”

The upcoming concert will be the first time that Shaham and Kesselman have collaborated with Salvador Brotons, the music director of the Vancouver Symphony.

“Brotons has quite a good reputation in Israel, where he conducts occasionally,” said Kesselman.

Also on the program is Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony, which is called the “Leningrad Symphony” because he dedicated it to the city of Leningrad after completing it in December 1941. Its music is seen as a symbol of resistance to Nazi totalitarianism and militarism. Many regard it as the major musical testament of the estimated 25 million Soviet citizens who lost their lives during World War II.

This will be the first time that the Vancouver Symphony has performed this work, but Brotons has conducted it elsewhere.

“I conducted the ‘Leningrad Symphony’ in Palma de Mallorca in 2000,” noted Brotons. “It’s a fabulous big piece for the orchestra that Shostakovich composed during the Second World War. It features a lot of instruments in the orchestra through long solos, impressive brass parts. Shostakovich is one of my favorite composers. His music is very emotional and spectacular, and it has a lot of contrast.”

The concert will also feature the annual “audience surprise choice,” which Brotons didn’t want to reveal.

“You have to come to the concert to find out what we will play!” he said.

Concertgoers should take note that Shaham has just released a new album entitled “American Grace” on the Canary Classics label. It features the world premiere recording of Steven Mackey’s piano concerto “Stumble to Grace” with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Shaham’s husband, conductor David Robertson. The CD also has a recording of John Adams’ “Hallelujah Junction” performed by Shaham and pianist Jon Kimura Parker.

“There’s something wonderful about playing with another pianist,” said Shaham. “We live in our little hermit crab world. The shell is our practice room, and we come out occasionally to eat. We don’t interact with each other the way that most musicians do. Pianists are on their own. Nobody else plays an instrument that is 9 feet long and 5 feet wide. So it’s extra special when we can collaborate with each other to make music.”