Friday, March 27, 2015

Pianist Adam Golka – given great responsibility to upkeep pianistic tradition

Together with two other young artists of his generation, Roman Rabinovich and Kuok-Wai Lio, Adam Golka has been chosen by the master pianist and all around culture maven András Schiff as a representative of today’s leading talent pool.  Photo: Subculture
Part of the New York “Sir András Schiff Selects: Young Pianists” series produced by the 92Y and Subculture, and presented internationally under the title: “Building Bridges” in Berlin, and future locations to be announced, Golka is looking at a busy concert season. He has just returned from his Berlin recital of the series at the intimate Institute Française, and the Zürich Tonhalle.
On Monday March 16, Golka was heard at Subculture with a program of Brahms’ Sonata in C major, Op.1 and Beethoven’s Sonata in B-flat minor, Op. 106, the so called “Hammerklavier.” Golka followed with an encore of one of Brahms’ most heart wrenching Intermezzi, from Op. 117, leaving the audience as drained as they were satisfied.
The young artist has definitely taken a serious listen to Schiff’s own pianistic interpretations, not in an imitative manner of style, but rather in a heartfelt way derived from his own musical conviction, and developed with great artistic advice by such pedagogues as Leon Fleisher and Richard Goode; and the list continues. The relationship between Golka’s playing and Schiff’s is especially evident in Golka’s broad range of dynamics and subtle choice of tempi.
The two pianists first met when Schiff heard Golka at a master class with Leon Fleisher that he attended as a guest. They met over a few instances, and then reconnected when Roman Rabinovich, Golka’s close friend, performed at Schiff’s own master class at Carnegie Hall, during his 2011/12 “Perspectives” season.
An invitation to play for Schiff in Gstaad followed, beginning a period of time that Golka describes as “magical days.” This engagement was followed by a seminar at the IMS Prussia Cove festival in England, which opened further opportunities to work together.
“He always lets us play what we would like to play, but offers advice – and of course, very highly appreciated his personal endorsement.”
When asked what this means concretely and ideally, Golka says: “Schiff has been an inspiration my whole life and it certainly is some sort of validation to be invited by such a [high-caliber] artist. It stimulates me to aim to attain such a high level of artistry for myself, and it of course helps stir the course of a career, which is always unsure. Often you try to push for things to happen, get connections….and then nothing happens. I have to remind myself to not try too hard, since sometimes the best things really happen when you just concentrate on the essential – being better at the piano. Now, it’s a little surreal to have his name attached to some of my performances, and while it’s a great honor, it also puts a great responsibility upon me not to disappoint.”
                                                                            Photo: Ilona Oltuski – Backstage: András Schiff and Adam Golka at Schiff’s recital at Carnegie Hall, March 2015.

Indeed, at Subculture, a profusely focused and sweat-dripping artist tried to give his everything. “I could have never guessed this would happen, and [I] approach it with humility. It’ a little terrifying at times, but because he is such a warm person, and his whole approach to communicating with me makes me feel ok, I feel good about myself and my playing. I always try to do better than my best…when he sees us, even after a long time, he always remembers our programs, it’s quite remarkable.”
Golka describes what makes this master’s presence and input so special: “In lessons I find he really gets into the spirit of the composer, the idiom of the music…the way he teaches Bach or Schubert is so different and unique. You get the sense he has some insight information about the language of the music and he shares that in a very visceral way. And even though he is an incredibly intellectual man, his teaching is very natural, not at all cerebral.
“And then of course there is his phenomenal interpretative playing ….He quotes from Schubert songs, and shows me: ‘more like this…’ at the piano. He uses just the right metaphors for his demonstrations; the moment I hear them mentioned I will never play the same way: it’s that definitive, and it makes such a huge difference in approach. With every fiber of his being, he breathes the music, and it goes even into the concert preparations, getting into the mood of the music; it’s all about a state of being that you have to attain to get into the music – it’s quite spiritual.”
Until now, the most pivotal figure in the world of music for Golka had been his late teacher, the great pianist and 1985 Van Cliburn Gold medalist Joseph (José) Feghali, with whom he remained close friends even after their studies had ended. “He was a giant and multi-talent, who invented a sleuth of technology, besides being one of the great performers. Most of all he was a great friend and has changed my life.”
Feghali, who had suffered from depression, committed suicide this past December. Although his memory will always stay with the sensitive young Polish-American pianist, maybe faith was meant to bring another great source of inspiration into the young Polish-American artist’s life just when he needed it the most: András Schiff. Read more about Adam Golka here.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Bridging Music and Poetry - Mohammed Fairouz and David Handler at Le Poisson Rouge

photos and article by Ilona Oltuski –

The newly launched series, Return to Language, which seeks to imaginatively blend text and music into an amalgamate of artistic substance, provided a perfect opportunity for a special presentation featuring Le Poisson Rouge’s own David Handler and American-Arab composer Mohammed Fairouz.
Fairouz’s January 2015 release of Follow, Poet on Deutsche Grammophon marks the artist’s debut on the yellow power label – excellent timing for a live performance of “Audenesque”, an excerpt of the recording, with the Ensemble LPR conducted by Evan Rogister.
Mezzo soprano Kate Lindsey’s (photo- with Ensemble LPR) astonishing vocal range and theatrical talent gave intense expression to the highs and lows of Fairouz’s composition, transforming wild pitches and uttered lingual sequences into fanciful rhythmic and melodic otherworldliness.
Set to the poetry of Seamus Heaney and read by Irish writer, Paul Muldoon, “Audenesque” is based on an elegy mourning the loss of poetic giant W. B. Yeats; it is also a tribute to the 20th century lineage of English-language poets.
With four symphonies, an opera and several chamber and solo works to his name, Fairouz’s deeply emotive, timeless messages and metaphors, as well as the musical references to his Middle Eastern roots, have contributed greatly to the composer’s growing reputation as an unique musician The New York Times calls ”an important new artistic voice.”
Composer, violinist and violist David Handler’s composition, Celtic Verses, performed by harpist Kristi Shade and mezzo-soprano Mary Mackenzie whose crisp voice and purist diction moved with the music’s poetic waves, offered a further highlight of the evening.
Long familiar with the concept of language as music and sound, Handler recalls being as fascinated by the material leading to Celtic Verses, as he was with the transformative power of language in Fairouz’s work.
For Handler, co-founder of LPR and the Ensemble LPR, which, in a previous interview, he described as a natural outgrowth of LPR’s curatorial identity, the evening’s musical collaboration also helped to further the venue’s artistic and curatorial identity. 
During the evening’s on-stage discussion with the composers, former IMG Managing Director Elisabeth Sobol, who had initiated the series for Universal Music Classics, shared her fascination and lifelong belief in the power of language and literature. At IMG, where she had managed artists like Evgeny Kissin, Joshua Bell and Itzhak Perlman, Sobol - now President and CEO of the Decca Label group - was instrumental in opening the doors for new music and genre-bending collaborations.

Joined on stage by Paul Muldoon, she expressed her hope that the evening’s encounter between two exceptional artists working at the crossroads of music and language “will spark a deeper kind of listening experience and, ultimately, a deeper sort of emotional response, because that’s the whole point of art: to be inspired and moved deeply.”
And Fairouz explained his thoughts: “In both our poetic and diplomatic lives, I would argue for a broad return to a love for illustrious language. Poetry can give us a means to reach beyond the daily, confused present and touch something timeless and eternal. At a time when the search for meaning has never been more critical, it seems to me that a return to language, to a respect in the way we treat each other with and through language is the first step in solving some of the problems of human communication and understanding that are manifest in conflicts from the Middle East to the halls of the U.S. Congress to the unchecked, vitriol sounding on social media. In times like ours, there is an imperative to use and value language more carefully and thoughtfully – a need to listen to and admire thoughtful language as part of our day-to-day lives. Our highest forms of linguistic expression are a defining element – and reflection of – our humanity.”
Sounds like a well-versed prayer to me.