Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Richard Goode Photo: Deborah Feingold
Everything about pianist Richard Goode exudes friendliness, courtesy, good humor and patience, yet there is also a curiosity in his vivid eyes, shining out a vitality and youthfulness, belying his age — he turned 68 this past summer.

I have had the opportunity to hear him perform on numerous occasions, not only at one of his frequent concerts at Carnegie Hall, where he is featured as one of the handful of seasoned performers at Carnegie’s annual ‘keyboard virtuoso’ series, but also in more intimate settings, like the 92nd Street Y. He has always convinced and enthused audiences with his insightful interpretations. The Financial Times called his recording of all five Beethoven concertos performed with the Budapest Festival Orchestra under Ivàn Fisher(released by Nonesuch Records in 2009) a “landmark recording of the Beethoven concertos.”He is a performer who manages to integrate a personal style and special nuance into even the most renowned repertoire.

When I entered his Upper East Side apartment, I was asked to please take off my shoes and am being greeted by his wife, violinist Marcia Weinfeld, and the venerable pianist himself, who has helped to shape New York’s pianistic scene at its best.“My wife teaches her students in the other wing of the apartment,” he says, as he closes the large, heavy doors to his studio, furnished with well stocked bookshelves that house part of the famously huge Goode book collection, recordings and lots of music scores, a cozy couch and of course his grand piano.

Like many Bronx natives of his time, Goode comes from a Jewish, Eastern European family — both grandmothers emigrated with their children from the Ukraine to America right before the war and it was many years before their husbands would be able to follow their families to New York. Goode’s maternal grandmother was Orthodox and quite observant, prompting his mother to rebel and adopt a rather secular, American way of life. Goode describes his father as very musical, even though he was never musically trained. Once their talented son started serious piano studies, Goode’s father took up piano tuning, “which is really difficult, I tried it and could not do it,” he adds smiling.

Goode’s first teacher, whose house calls he still remembers, did not meet his father’s expectations. A more suitable pianistic influence, Elvira Szigety, an aunt of the celebrated violinist Josef Szigety continued guiding the six and a half years old boy for the next three years.

Rosalie Leventritt, famous patron of the arts, became most influential in Richard Goode’s early career. The Leventritt Foundation was instrumental in supporting music education all over the country and has been blessed with supporting some of the finest artists.( see the history of Young Audiences at ) Through Leventritt, Goode was introduced to pianist Rudolf Serkin who, on the board of Young Audiences with Leventritt, was willing to listen to the young talented boy play for him at Leventritt’s home.

“Serkin brought me to Claude Frank,” says Goode,”who was a student of Schnabel. I had lessons at Leventritt’s house. Then I began to attend Mannes College, which, at the time was located on the East Side. I was very lucky to have many positive musical influences in my life through my various teachers, such as my theory teacher Carl Schechter at Mannes, and Nadja Reisenberg, who had been Hoffman’s assistant, and later when I went to Curtis, Mieczyslaw Horszowski and of course Serkin, himself. Inevitably your teachers mark you strongly and then you want to get away from them,” Goode muses. Bigger than life remains Rudolf Serkin, with “his intense and dramatic way of playing, his totally giving himself to the composer’s intentions and his particular style… he was a very powerful personality that I admired and at the same time needed to differentiate myself from. I am a very different person.” The other huge artistic influence on Goode – even though transmitted via his recordings, he never met him in person, was Schnabel himself. “If Serkin was the heat, Schnabel was the light”, he says. The Austrian pianist Artur Schnabel was legendary for his intellectual command of Beethoven’s and Schubert’s music, and for his avoidance of any flashy showing off, of a personal bravura technique.

“It was an illumination for me to follow how he looked at music and how he derived intellectually his musical choices with the utmost clarity. Years after I stopped studying at Curtis, Schnabel’s son Karl Ulrich gave master classes at Mannes.” Goode was in awe of having had such close encounters with his idol’s son. “And what a funny and delightful person and such a thorough teacher, he was. His lessons went on for hours and he gave everything in such a warm and generous way. He was exhausted afterwards.” he remembers. “I still have scores marked by him.”

Goode, together with pianist Mitsuko Uchida, (András Schiff originally participated for a short, initial period as well) took over Rudolf Serkin’s historic, forty years long artistic direction of the Marlboro Festival after Serkin’s death in 1991. Goode started attending Marlboro, idyllically located in Vermont’s countryside –one of the principal breeding places for the next generation of great musicians of the East Coast -- at age 14. During nine consecutive summers he played chamber music, learning from coaches, known to be among the best.

I asked him if life has changed in Marlboro under his leadership. He answered somewhat hesitantly:”The tone may have changed a bit, but the basic idea remarkably remained the same. We get the talent; provide a place to work and of course some good guidance, and the spirit of it all creates a fun atmosphere. We set up a structure of discipline and freedom and then we let things happen. A major departure from the old ways is a more harmonious, more accepting attitude towards the musicians, which does not make one feel as if on probation. People used to be much more afraid to be judged – now there is much more freedom. We have generally many string players, but are unfortunately somewhat restricted with pianists. We have auditions and 4-5 of the older ones return generally for three years. That leaves only room for about 5-6 new comers. All in all there are 10 pianists present each summer. All participants rehearse extensively and, if all goes well, you end up with many performances.” But perhaps one of the most important factors for all the busy musicians at Marlboro is the remarkably simplistic, yet utterly refreshing and kind of missing in today’s pace factor: “It’s a place where you have time!”

On top of it, Marlboro not only offers a very welcome learning experience but also a fun time socially with other young musicians; it is also a really great opportunity to make a mark as an aspiring performer. Many pianists have made a name for themselves as Musicians from Marlboro, with a multitude of performance opportunities beyond the festival, such as a tour with the chamber music series of the New York Metropolitan Museum. Some of the widely admired attendees of the festival are the young Marlboro participants Jeremy Denk and Jonathan Biss, a friend of Denk’s, who gave an outstanding duo recital together with Richard Goode at the 92nd Y in February of 2010. Goode met Biss in Marlboro, as he sat in a rehearsal.

Goode/Biss at the 92nd Street y - Photo:Matthew Murphy for NYTimes

About the seemingly increasing amount of vast musical talent all around the world, Goode has the following to say:”The perpetual ability for music has changed; it is remarkable what kind of a difference the Internet has brought about. I myself am still behind in the process,’ he admits smiling. “I have noticed such sophistication at Marlboro, over the past ten years. People are building on what they are exposed to, what they hear and develop a greater ability and affinity. Good technical command has always been widespread. Technical challenges will always somehow be made to overcome. Having a big goal set is exciting and challenges are accepted by musicians. But the level of musicianship has definitely grown. I see that music making in the classical style is much harder for the young generation to master, than perhaps a work of the late 19th or early 20th century. Basic elements are more exposed – every note counts and relationships are perhaps more subtle. Musicians need exposure, more interaction with other musicians, other disciplines and more communication. We have integrated some innovations into Marlboro, for example a wonderful program for vocalists, who used to be treated a bit like second class citizens before. We now offer an opera workshop instituted by Ken Noda from the Metropolitan Opera, as well as a great young artist’s program. “

Goode is teaching at Mannes College and master classes with Ursula Oppens at City College. “It has become increasingly apparent to me that teaching and performing are just different aspects of the same thing, being a musician, trying to look into the music and, as Horszowski said, imply reading the score and seeing what’s there!” He himself adds, “The thing I learned with Serkin is that the end result is trying to discover what’s hidden, but in order to do that you have to first exam the score and know what’s there!”

And since we are talking about “the score”, I told him about my love for the Schumann concerto. He tells me about a wonderful surprise he had one evening after the performance of my favorite concerto:”After my performance, Sotheby’s music expert Richard Roe comes backstage and asks me if I would like to see the original score of the Schumann concerto. I was burning with joy and curiosity and said, ‘Of course, when can I go see it, tomorrow?’ And there it was, the original score, full of revisions in Schumann’s beautiful handwriting right at Sotheby’s.” and with that he walked over to his shelf, searched a bit and came back with the printed facsimile of the original version that shows so clearly Schumann’s struggles to choose one of the four different versions, in the transition from the second to the third movement. The beginning had started with a different onset, with the piano starting off and the orchestra giving the third beat. Goode told me about a performance which stunned its audience, of that original first version of the score by pianist Malcom Freger at Carnegie Hall, who was a student of Karl Friedberg, who himself had studied with Clara Schumann. Tradition obliges and the score is a chapter in itself. To give testimony to that, Goode tells me that he has decided to opt more often to perform with the score. For him, memorization cuts down on the music making process: “I play better with music. Much off my playing (in chamber music) is with the music anyhow. Why learn 3 Haydn sonatas by heart if you could play fifteen with the score at hand? I feel a great deal of freedom and less intimidated by the scare of a memory slip. As long as you internalize the music it does not matter that it stands in front of you, it should be whatever works best for each performer; to translate what one thinks should be the sound.”

Richard Goode Photo:Sascha Gusov
It’s about time someone emancipates himself from what has risen as an unwritten law of performance practice. At the end it’s all about how well one makes the music heard.

Richard Goode’s next performance in New York City:

April 24, 2012 - Carnegie Hall, Isaac Stern Auditorium, New York, NY.

On tour:

February 12, 2012 - Royal Festival Hall, South Bank Centre, London

March 2, 2012 - University of Buffalo Lippes Concert Hall, Buffalo, NY.

March 4, 2012 - Chicago Symphony Center, Chicago, IL.

March 5, 2012 - Lutkin Hall, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.

March 9, 2012 - Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Kansas City, MO.

March 18, 2012 - Shriver Hall, Baltimore, MD.

March 20, 2012 - SOPAC, South Orange, NJ.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Pianist Louis Schwizgebel-Wang

Photo: Christian Steiner
The young and personable Louis Schwizgebel-Wang is not to be considered a ‘secret’ insider tip anymore, and he certainly won’t be after his upcoming recital at Merkin Hall on January 30th.Even as early as 2007, the Swiss born pianist was introduced to audiences in the United States, with his Zankel Hall debut in New York and at the Kennedy Center in Washington. According to the Washington Post at the time, he played with a “powerhouse technique, a sly sense of humor, wonderfully expressive phrasing, and seething passion, showing also sensitivity to subtle but essential details of touch and tone.” Previously he had won First Prize in the 2006 Young Concert Artists European Auditions in Leipzig Hochschule fuer Musik Felix Mendelssohn- Bartholdy.He is once again launched by Young Concert Artists, an organization that is dedicated to boosting to success the careers of many great pianists, -- including artists like Jerome Lowenthal, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Richard Goode, Emanuel Ax and Jeremy Denk. Schwizgebel’s upcoming encore recital at Merkin Hall will give this young performer the chance to remind New York audiences of the previous positive impression that he made in New York and beyond.
Schwizgebel-Wang’s other career highlights include a 2004 tour of China with the Basel Symphony and in 2005 he won the top prize at the Geneva International Piano Competition. His continued winning of prizes in Europe and the United States had led to more, great concert opportunities, such as his performance as a soloist with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra under Fabio Luisi and with the London Philharmonic under Carl Davis. He also very recently played a solo recital at London’s Wigmore Hall, and this summer he performed at the Verbier Festival, with critic Ismene Brown saying: “ … I enjoyed most what was happening upon a new bloom, the sort of thing that is very Verbier. One afternoon at the clipped white modern Église appeared a 23-year-old Swiss pianist named Louis Schwizgebel-Wang, who made an hour and a quarter of Liszt flee by with exquisite fairytales of pianism, from the sombre questions of Vallée d’Oberman to some breathtakingly virtuosic playing of Paganini studies….
Photo: Christian Lutz
To make a career as a musician is a long-term act of intelligent will and curiosity about music-making, as Terfel embodies. At the moment, perhaps, the beauteous and glamorous Buniatishvili, the same age as Schwizgebel-Wang, has a huge marketing advantage, but in 20 years I think that, like Kovacevich and Argerich, it is Schwizgebel-Wang who is more likely to be the master of his instrument opening ears to the intimate secrets of great music up in the mountains of Verbier. Catch him when he plays in Britain this autumn with his fellow Swiss cellist, Lionel Cottet, and, I'd bet he will be playing in a lot of high places as a soloist before long.”His parents —the mother Chinese, the father Swiss— are both visual artists living in Geneva, and believed in a sheltered environment. He started lessons with his teacher Franz Josefovski at age six. The young piano talent, who, aged 12, represented Switzerland in the 9th Steinway Festival in Hamburg, visited the Lausanne Conservatory, but just for lessons with his teacher Brigitte Mayer. Still living at home he earned his soloist diploma, aged 15. He later travelled for lessons with Pascal Devoyon at the Berlin Universität der Künste.
That is why only since he came to New York this year, to study at Juilliard with Emanuel Ax and Robert McDonald, has he experienced a true “school – environment,” which he actually enjoys greatly.
He likes to challenge himself and, as I was impressed to learn, he likes to continue to explore. Even in terms of his already greatly praised piano technique, he likes to gain a deeper insight into the principals that are at work which are evidently not always completely clear, despite all the great training and musical talent.Photo: Chritian LutzI met him for the first time recently, after his participation at the Beethoven Marathon, a live broadcast from WQXR’s Greenspace on November 20th. This marathon was a collective effort of some of the most talented -- established and emerging pianists including Jonathan Bis, Jeremy Denk, Alessio Bax and Phillip Edward Fisher.“I needed to expand my horizon…” said Schwizgebel-Wang, as I approached him after his stellar performance of Beethoven’s opus 14, no. 1; and Opus 81a.
Photo: Christian Lutz
His participation at the Green Space broadcast happened somewhat spontaneously, leaving him only the very limited time span of 8 days to prepare both of the sonatas for performance.
“I decided on studying in New York,” he explained, “since I had already contacts, won some auditions and I had management, which still continues. Young Concert Artists was very helpful; they introduced me to Emanuel Ax, who then accepted me as his student at Juilliard. Engstroem, the organizer of the Verbier Festival also convinced me to go New York. I had first gone to their Academy – Master classes in 2008/9 and then Engstroem had invited me to play a recital this year. I would have thought Paris or London. Engstroem pushed me further.”
And he loves it. Lucky to have found an apartment close to Juilliard, he practices at the school, daily. “At home I was always a bit lazy about practicing, since ...well it was home, there were distractions. But here, you pass by the practice rooms and I am motivated; everyone else is doing the same thing,” the pianist continues.He enjoys the musical input both his teachers, Ax and McDonald, provide. They don’t talk much technique.
Schwizgebel –Wang likes to listen to both their personal suggestions, of how to go about different phrasings, musical structure and interpretation. “Sometimes there are small changes in details that transform the whole idea of the piece” , he claims, getting the most out of his one year graduate diploma process, which he would like to extend to a second year.When we are talking about technique, Louis gets really interested.It is fascinating for any aspiring pianist to know that, despite this pianist’s huge talent, his accomplished performances and his aspirant career, he can admit to constant insecurities, or rather a continual questioning of his pianistic technique as the reliable craft to forge all the wonderful promising artistic ideas.
How to produce the full tone he wants for a particular place in the music? How to get into the keys so the planned sound effect won’t be too harsh, but loud enough?There are obviously different stylistic ways to approach the piano, for example when playing French, impressionist music like Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit, that Louis is preparing for his upcoming Merkin Hall recital.
“Something about the touch light, precise and this clear accuracy, is more tangible for me and easier to instinctively grasp then let’s say Brahms or Schubert,” he says.So what is it one has to focus on practicing, considering one can prepare two Beethoven Sonatas in 8 days? “I am not crazy about “exercises.” I make up my exercises according to each piece I play and I like to know all about the music I play. And I would love to understand technique in general better, what enables you to feel comfortable at the piano. “
As his teacher McDonald had mentioned the Taubman approach, I offer to introduce him to Edna Golandsky, who is the most renowned specialist in Dorothy Taubman’s inquisitions of natural piano technique. (See my article: is fascinating to see the interaction when huge talent meets with the lifelong experience in a piano coach like Edna Golandsky, who has welcomed many pianists, expanding their horizons in seeking her advice. Louis plays a movement of Schubert’s Sonata in A major, Haydn Sonata in C Major and some of Ravel’s gaspard de la nuit. Edna admires his talent and realizes he is on the search of how to get that ever-escaping quality of tone, effortlessly and reliably.I am honored to be present at their session: “What’s on your mind?” she asks him, after he played for her. He explained that he never really had a completely comfortable technique; “I had always been searching, starting out with a too high wrist and tension. I wanted to play difficult pieces too young and had to find a way to be able to play them. McDonald gave me some new advice that made me feel somewhat better about how to go into the keys, somewhat diagonally, not gripping the keys, as I was doing before, but I am still searching…”Edna has a different approach, pointing out the very natural alignment of the forearm, hands and fingers. There is no one position that can be kept continuously:”Curling the fingers is one of the biggest reasons for tension, she says, but a thrust forward creates a finger action that can be counterproductive just the same as grabbing the keys, which has an effect of making you “fall off” the piano. Sometimes changing one approach for another can make one feel better. But the real answer is to get rid of any tension.”Edna went onto tell Louis that the depth in his tone, comes from the weight of the forearm, which negotiates also the sideward movement on the keyboard. There is a sense of forward balance, opposed to falling back. She recognized that he has a lot of imagination in his playing and brings out color changes, but there could be a deeper sound:”That comes from the forearm, by slowing down the key speed with a rotational movement,” she explains.Louis gets the hang of it, immediately. Edna asks him, “How is that? ““Comfortable,” Louis confirms, nodding thankfully.“Paying attention to the alignment allows you to feel more grounded, more supported. In order to bring out sounds, especially when we are talking about a soft sound, people hold up their arms, their shoulders, not daring to make a too big sound. Sound is not at the bottom of the key, but slightly before that. Therefore you don’t aim for the bottom,” Edna explains to him.“You release more power, when you are not forcing into the key, like when throwing a ball. With the timing of the key and the power of the forearm, there is a lot of variety of tone, and a bigger sound. Just be careful not to break the wrist and not to collapse at the knuckles. Breaking the wrist can quickly lead to injuries, and usually, when the wrist collapses, the shoulders go up as well. Maybe your higher wrist position tried to make up for this. In any case, when it’s correct, the hand does not want to do anything else, it’s totally comfortable and there is no difference if it’s in concert performance or practicing.”Schwizgebel-Wang is enthusiastic about his initial visit, as he tells me afterwards: “It really helps! I was expecting something more complicated but actually it is so simple and natural. I am looking forward to practicing in this direction. “
Lucky to be open-minded and not deterred by some of the ghosts of critical rumors about the Taubman approach, he will have the opportunity to visit Edna again, as questions arise. But for those not near New York, there are the 10 tapes, introducing the principles of the method which are available at the Golandsky website.
On top of it he is great fun, as I experienced first hand when he visited with my family for dinner and joined with Juilliard co-student David Aladashvili into a spontanious Schubertesque salon performance. And maybe we will experience some of the impressive, positive results of Louis’s new approach to tone production in his piano technique during his upcoming Merkin Hall recital. We hope it will be a more comfortable, effortless experience for him… as he will be able to craft his wonderful musical thoughts more freely.His website is:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pianist Fred Hersch

Fred Hersch - Photo Matthew Sussman
I first heard about Fred Hersch -- who, now in his mid-fifties, has played gigs in about every major New York Jazz venue -- in a very different way. In The Insanity Hoax, author Judith Schlesinger makes her convincing point that the surplus in creativity, inherent in a great musician’s/ great artist’s life, does not necessarily make for mad geniuses and that, if anything, our great geniuses ought to be celebrated, not diagnosed.Hersch, a survivor of a recent Aids- related loss of conscience and a miraculous, full recovery into previous pianistic greatness, confirmed:”Putting labels on anything is dangerous. Everybody is diagnosed these days with something…disorder of this, disorder of that…and treated with medication. And what is normal? Within the creative process of anybody, there is something akin to some sort of mania, an energy trying to capture something before it gets away. Inevitably, there is a crash following afterwards. You have to live with what you have accomplished and recuperate yourself. Maybe there are only a few days in between these creative bouts, but every true artist needs to recover from such an intense creative input. And after all, even if you want to call it creative madness, I see it as ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration.”Moving to New York in the late 1970s, Hersch, who was classically trained at the New England Conservatory of Music, learned to play jazz firsthand from playing with greats such as Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, Lee Konitz, Art Farmer and Charlie Haden. “Hersch’s music best connects to the jazz tradition of Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman. It’s luxurious, free-flowing, unashamedly gorgeous jazz – idiosyncratically, unmistakably a creation of his own, “ David Hajdu explains in his New York Times portrait of Hersh. (January 28th, 2010) Hersch has held several teaching positions himself at various music institutions like the Manhattan School of Music, the New School University and Western Michigan University but recently returned to his teaching position at the New England Conservatory, one of his favorites for its special atmosphere and appreciation of the musicians. He has left his mark on a young generation of talented pianists, including Brad Mehldau and Ethan Iverson. ”In the twentieth century everything got so divided. Now, slowly it merges together again. I do like to play Brahms, Beethoven and Scarlatti Sonatas. I have a program with improvisations that also includes, on occasion, the Mozart No. 27 concerto, next to different arrangements of the program. As pianists we have this amazing literature at hand…” saysHersch.
Photo: Steve J.Sherman
Some of his compositions are published by Peters Edition.“I love the piano and what it can do, beyond what isFred Hersch photo:Steve J.Shermanstandard for jazz pianists,” he says. “A good performance is when it really tells a story. There is a formidable skill set necessary to be a jazz musician. You have to be able to transpose, improvise, you have to understand chord symbols, different styles and be able to accompany. Most important is the rhythm. Timing can be developed to a certain point, but you have to feel it in your guts – that can only be taught to a certain degree. When I perform, I go to the venue beforehand, maybe for 45 minutes or so, make myself comfortable with the piano and then I plan the first tune. In performance I close my eyes and take it from there. I am in my own world then. But I can feel if the audience is with me. If I discover something new, the audience feels it and gets excited as well. I always assume they are sophisticated until I am proved different.”His teacher, Sophie Rosoff at the New England Conservatory, was an assistant to Abby Whiteside, who had challenged the finger- centric approach of piano technique and instead advocated a holistic attitude, where the whole(upper) body acted in natural conjunction with and in support of the (so called weak) fingers, making it unnecessary to train finger ”strength” with useless exercises. Whiteside also believed in an intrinsic feeling of rhythm, an innate sense of phrasing that she observed in the natural ability of a child prodigy and jazz pianist. (from: Wikipedia)To get an introduction into jazz, Hersch recommends: “Pick any song, improvise on it and see where it leads you. Listen to jazz; it’s a language you can’t just put on like a hat.”I personally can recommend his Alone at the Vanguard, a Palmetto production from 2011, which documents his second run of a week-long engagement as solo-artist of the famous New York Village Vanguard. The CD is nominated for two Grammy Awards: for Best jazz Instrumental Album and for Best Jazz Improvised solo (for his interpretation of Monk’s work)The large scale production of “My Coma Dreams,” a work for 11 instruments, actor/singer and animation/multimedia was directly inspired by his real life event. The project, which Hersch describes as his “most personal and probably most ambitious one,” was realized in 2011.Hersch is a dedicated member of the gay community and it has been always an important agenda for him to support fund raising benefits, like the AIDS charity Classical Action supported by IMG co-founder Charles Hamlen.As we near the end of our conversation he suddenly acknowledges energetically:”Now I am looking for the next big thing! The last one (he refers to the Coma Project) involved theater. I recently had an idea for a musical, but it did not come through yet. I like text and would love an opportunity to incorporate text and music.”In the meantime, pianist Natasha Paremski, who in September 2010 was awarded the Classical Recording Foundation’s Young Artist of the Year, will perform his Improvisation on a theme by Tchaikovsky, a commission by the Gilmore Foundation she was able to choose as the winner of the prestigious Gilmore Prize. She will perform it at the 2012 Gilmore Festival. Fred Hersch will perform at the Village Vanguard on February 7-12th with his “working band,” Fred Hersch Trio that includes John Hébert on bass and drummer Eric McPherson.He will also perform as soloist at the Jazz Standard on March 18thFred Hersch's website:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Israeli Chamber Project

February 1st. 2012 at 7.30 at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall
Founded in 2008, the Israeli Chamber Project is a stunning group of young, but accomplished, entrepreneurial Israeli musicians who live in the United States and share – besides their individual musical talent - a mission that connects them. As the group’s Executive Director and one of their two pianists, co- founder Assaff Weisman puts it:”Our mission rests on three pillars: First of all we feel passionate about giving something back to our native country, Israel. There is virtually zero funding for the arts available in Israel; the country simply cannot afford it. Therefore a lot of its most talented youth are leaving – like we did -- in order to further their education and their performance possibilities, which are necessary for an international career in music. This causes a “brain drain,” so to speak, leaving the country without good teachers to inspire the next generation. So we want to tour and give back to the younger generation, by teaching and inspiring them. Secondly, we are reaching out to the public in Israel with our concerts by not only focusing on the typical cultural centers such as with our concert series in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, but by bringing classical music also to Kibbutzim, to the Negev and Arab towns. We offer classical music culture to these more remote areas, where we like to introduce the music of traditional and contemporary composers. Our educational tours include master classes and also individual instrumental lessons at local music schools, and typically end with a concert, where we often include the students of the day. This is not a one-time deal; we are returning and are privileged to share in the progress. “And,” Weisman continues, “of course we reach out to the American public, here, at our new home, and encouraging a cultural sensitivity for Israel. We are all Israeli and our common background is very connecting. People have told me lots of times that there is a special feeling which projects to the audiences. We support Israeli arts by commissioning works by contemporary Israeli composers, among them Matan Porat, Jonathan Keren, Amit Gilutz, and Gilad Cohen. But of course we have a wide range of repertory which we perform. Our honest approach without any pretense has been rewarded by a very positive response from our audiences so far, and our first CD will be released by the Azica-label this season, distributed by Naxos.” The group, which consists of eight core members, includes a string quartet, two pianists, a harpist and a clarinetist. At their Carnegie Hall debut, two to six musicians will perform in varying combinations. Each of the musicians has already a reputation in their field. Assaff, former student of Juilliard’s eminent Herbert Stessin (also teacher to Jeremy Denk and Orly Shaham) who had helped nurture some of the most successful pianists of the younger generation, is teaching four classes at Juilliard’s Evening division himself, besides concertizing extensively with Israeli Chamber Project and also in his solo- career, as concert pianist. Prior to his studies in New York, Mr. Weisman studied with Professor Victor Derevianko in Israel and was supported, like all members of the Israeli Chamber Project, by scholarships from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation. Many of the artists go way back to a shared upbringing in their hometowns in Israel. Others met at Juilliard. Says violinist Itamar Zorman, the youngest member of the group:”Michal and Tibi took me into a practice room, explained to me about the group and its ideas and I said, of course I would love to join. I had played before as a trio with Michal, who is an amazing cellist, and the pianist Itamar Golan. With Sivan, our harpist, I had also played at a festival at the Jersualem Academy in 2004. “ Zorman is the winner of the 2011 Tchaikovsky International Competition in Russia and grew up in Tel Aviv where he met Weisman. He was inspired by two other young Israeli musicians, who helped him tremendously, through the Ilana Feher Foundation. Violinists Ittai Shapira and Hagai Shaham were not only instrumental in getting him a grant that allowed for a recording and a debut recital, they were also a true support in giving sound advice in making decisions, concerning his future career steps. Performing within the Israeli Chamber Project, not only is “a lot of fun, since I really love playing with this group of people,” but he also believes in their mission, the opportunity to pay back the kind of support he received: “The level of education in Israel overall is very high. There are many teachers of the older generation, who received their training in the former Soviet Union and there is also a good vision about music. There are some big studios and some amazing talent. But I am trying to introduce a new point of view which won’t interfere with, but enhance their work. Besides my love for Schubert and Brahms, I am also bringing my love for contemporary music along and I found in general that Israelis are a very open minded audience. At the same time I enjoy performing Israeli contemporary composers in America, as well as new music in general. It maybe generational, symbolizing the rhythm of our time. Of course there is something in modern music, touching on the general human condition just like in any music, but there is also something specific in its modern idiom. Our responsibility as performers is to present it as masterfully performed as we strive for with the classical icons, even though too much reverence stands sometimes in the way of just being in the moment; another ‘forte’ of contemporary music that does not carry the weight of its own history.” Last summer, attending the Marlboro Festival, Zorman and harpist Sivan Magen met with composer Matan Porat. “We performed Matan’s requiem, an extremely effective piece, especially when we played it at midnight at the Festival.” This coming summer he will attend the music festival at Verbier, hoping to open up yet new horizons.Program on February 1, 2012 at 7.30 At Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie HallShostakovich, Trio for piano, Violin, Cello in C minor,Op. 8 Sebastian Currier, Night Time for Harp and violinMartinů Chamber Music No.1Paul Ben Haim Three Songs Without Words (arr. for Clarinet and Harp)Brahms Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, in A minor, Op. 114 Tibi Cziger, clarinetSergey Tarashansky,violaAssaff Weisman, pianoMichal Korman, celloItamar Zorman, violinSivan Magen, harp