Cellist Gavriel Lipkind, one of the most successful Israeli musicians of his generation, will perform with the Rishon Lezion Symphony, as well as open the orchestra’s recital series and tour Israel with chamber programs.
Born in Israel into a family of new immigrants from the USSR, Lipkind started playing at an early age and enjoyed a stellar rise to a solo career. But he refuses to see himself as a wunderkind, or child prodigy.
“‘Wunderkind” is usually a term used by impresarios and promoters and then implanted into the mind of the child and, above all, his parents,” says the 36-year-old. “As a teacher, I often meet these ‘wunderkinds’ and, more often than not, what I see is a ready-made framework with insufficient and immature content. Fortunately, my path was different. My development went naturally,” he says.
“Different” is actually an understatement.“The true talent in our family is my older sister, who studied languages and played piano from an early age. And although already as a toddler I dreamed of playing violin, with the words ‘You will be a normal child,’ I was sent to play with other kids in the street,” he recounts.
Things changed when, at 11, his sister decided that enough was enough and was not going to play piano anymore. But since Lipkind’s hard-working parents had already paid for her lessons at the conservatory, six-year-old Gavriel was sent instead. “At the first lessons, my teacher was stunned by my ability to concentrate, to dissolve myself into the music. But then something strange happened – she felt that I was not really there,” he recollects. “It took her time to realize that I was listening to the sounds of the cello in the neighboring class. So she took me by the hand and brought me into the room next door. What I saw caused me to scream with delight: a huge and beautiful bearded man with what I thought was a violin for boys. It was Itzhak Berkovich, who became my first teacher.”
Berkovich seemed to be a lucky choice. “On Friday afternoons, my father and I traveled to Netanya to meet him, and the three of us played football on the beach until late. We studied the next day, and it was all natural.”
Lipkind was 10 when Uzi Viesel, the premier Israeli cello teacher of the time, heard him on the radio in a live concert. He called Lipkind’s mother, and in a matter-of-fact German manner, informed her that her son could study with him.
“Later, I studied with many prominent cellists from all over the world and acquired my academic degrees on three continents, but I still consider Viesel as my teacher. He moved to Germany and then to Australia; but even if we don’t see each other for years, there still is an understanding between us. His standards were very high, he kept me within clear limits, he chose composers and pieces that suited my age, and he was open enough to send me to other cellists,” he says.
Lipkind’s career soon catapulted.
He moved to Europe, where he performed with major orchestras throughout the world, and his future seemed quite predictable.
But at 22, he took a three and a half year break, which he describes as a retreat.
“Going on stage and playing a Dvorak concerto in front of 3,000 people once again – it simply did not work for me anymore. While Uzi Viesel is my teacher, Glenn Gould, who switched from public performing to recording, is my role model. Listening to his programs and interviews, I realize the immense power of production, of the possibility to fully command your performance, not be just a part of the well-oiled music industry machine,” he says.
He moved to Germany and started studying again – piano, production, sound, management, etc. In his seclusion, he played from morning till night. “I realized the meaning of Glenn Gould’s words: ‘Recording is relation of one to zero.’ Zero is a microphone, which will listen to you with infinite and unwavering attention as much as you play. I immersed myself in music, I recreated the sound from molecules. That said, without my experience of performing for the public, this would have been impossible,” he says.
Today, Lipkind makes Berlin his base, dividing his time between concerts with orchestras, recitals and chamber concerts, recording sessions and giving master classes.
“I play with my lifelong friend, Israeli pianist Roman Zaslavsky, and my wife, Anna – a young Israeli violinist of Russian stock, as well as in other ensembles. Instead of teaching at some music academy, I give about eight master classes a year in a very intensive way. For that period, I forget about myself – I am there for the students. We all sit together in a spacious room from early until late and immerse ourselves in the atmosphere of cello playing. Young Israeli cellists are most welcome, and there are scholarships and special frameworks for them. From my experience, I know how important it is to be exposed to the larger world. That said, when I see a European kid with 900 years of cello playing in his family, I say to myself that growing up in Israel, with its clashing and intermingling cultural traditions, is not bad at all!”
Lipkind will perform a chamber program on October 19 at 11 a.m. at Kibbutz Ginegar (with Anna Lipkind and Roman Zaslavsky) and at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art with the Aviv Quartet at 8:30 p.m. On October 26 at 11 a.m., he will perform at Kibbutz Ein Hashofet. He will play Tchaikovsky’s Variation on a Rococo Theme and Bruch’s Kol Nidrei with the Rishon Symphony under James Judd (England) on October 26 and 29 in Rishon Lezion; October 27 in Rehovot; and October 30 at the Opera House in Tel Aviv.