Lilya Zilberstein, Israeli Chamber Project
Dangerous Beethoven, and a distinctive young voice from Israel
January 24, 2011
Musical Bridges Around the World
presented a generous twofer, Jan 23. in McAllister Auditorium. The
pianist Lilya Zilberstein opened the afternoon with a demanding
mini-recital of 19th-century staples, in advance of her return to the
San Antonio Symphony this weekend in Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto
No. 3 ; and five members of the youthful Israeli Chamber Project
followed with a diverse program that included an ambitious new work by
young Israeli composer Amit Gilutz.
Ms. Zilberstein brought a gentle sway, a very flexible tempo and lively
phrasing to Frederic Chopin’s Barcarole in F-sharp. In Book 2 of
Johannes Brahms’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini, she delivered a
dash of wit, a wide color palette and an interesting way of propelling
the line with her left hand.
Ms. Zilberstein’s account of Beethoven’s “Appassionata” Sonata was not
one to please control freaks, but then neither is the sonata itself,
one of Beethoven's most rambunctious. The pianist gave full vent to the
outer allegros’ violent rifts and the turbulent tumbling of their
frantic runs. She declined to romanticize the lyrical theme of the
middle movement, and in most of its variations she stressed angularity
over a smooth line. This was a fearless, on-the-edge, dangerous
performance. It was dotted with a few wrong notes -- but even they were
right in spirit.
The Israeli Chamber Project was
represented in San Antonio by clarinetist Tibi Cziger, cellist Michal
Korman, harpist Sivan Magen, pianist Assaff Weisman and violinist
Itamar Zorman. They proved a wonderfully engaging troupe, notable as
much for the palpable joy they brought to everything they played as for
their first-class individual and collective artistry.
All five came together for only one piece, Gilutz’s “Zlila.” Mr.
Gilutz, born in 1983, comes with an impressive musical pedigree: He is
studying with both Steven Stucky and Roberto Sierra, two highly
distinguished composers, at Cornell.
“Zlila” depends on atmospherics and absolute sound rather than on
melody or traditional forms of development. The texture is generally
spare, and there are long stretches of near-stasis punctuated by highly
active eddies. The seeming stasis is never really static, however,
because Mr. Gilutz brings to this music a fine ear for shadings of
instrumental color and shifting harmonic regions. The composer calls
for a prepared piano and both extended and conventional technique from
the other players -- the result sometimes recalls the electronic
landscapes of Varese and Subotnik. This is a highly disciplined work,
demanding attention all the way to its eerily quiet conclusion.
The troupe opened in more
familiar territory with Ernest Bloch’s Three Nocturnes for piano trio
-- one delicate, one lyrical, one motoric and intense. Israeli compose
Paul Ben-Haim’s Three Songs Without Words for harp and clarinet were
appealing but conservative pieces in a style influenced by Middle
The closer was Bela Bartok’s “Contrasts” for violin, clarinet and piano
-- originally composed for Joseph Szigeti and Benny Goodman. Mr.
Zorman’s substantial, richly grained violin sound, Mr. Cziger’s clean,
fluid playing on clarinet and Mr. Weisman’s crisp pianism were
consistently pleasurable, as was their way of throwing themselves into
the music, especially in the wild finale.
Ms. Korman distinguished herself in the Bloch Nocturnes with limpid
tone on cello, and Mr. Magen’s snappy, muscular work on harp contribute
greatly to the effectiveness of the new piece by Gilutz.