A pianist's journey to enlightened playing

'I never try to be different just for the sake of it,' says internationally acclaimed Israeli pianist Alon Goldstein.

piano88 (photo credit:)
piano88
(photo credit: )
'I never try to be different just for the sake of it," says internationally acclaimed Israeli pianist Alon Goldstein, "But somehow [when I play a piece], it turns out unique anyway." Goldstein, who is playing Beethoven's Concerto No. 1 several times this weekend with the Israeli Philharmonic under conductor Herbert Blomstedt, has come a long way since he began studying piano at Israel's Rubin Academy. After learning with Victor Derevianko and Arie Vardi here, he continued on to one of the world's best music schools - the Peabody Conservatory of Music - where he studied under Leon Fleischer. "Fleischer's most amazing quality is his X-ray eyes. He looks through the piece and he sees the skeleton... he strips the music down... and shows that music is not about effects, but how the tension between the notes can make a miracle happen." Another important thing Goldstein learned is what he calls "multiple schizophrenia." "You have to become three people - one does the homework, the second performs, and the third sits among the audience in order to tell the first if the second played as he planned to. This ability to be detached and question oneself is essential for self-improvement." On graduating from Peabody, Goldstein moved to London where he became a Performance Fellow at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. In this unique and flexible post created especially for him, he initiated an innovative chamber music concert series, collaborated with students and faculty members and constructed annual festivals devoted to the four-handed piano repertoire. After spending a few years in Italy, he settled in a Washington suburb and began performing throughout the world with the best orchestras. Yet according to Goldstein, who is admired by audiences and critics alike for his musical intelligence and warm personality, his musical career is something far more rich and versatile than "just a shopping cart of big names. Rather it has been a journey... with many unexpected experiences." Now back in his place of birth to play Beethoven, Goldstein remarks that for him, the best way to prepare for the piece is to study the composer's output: "[His musical scores] are his real diaries. I try to play Beethoven as if there was no Schubert, no Rachmaninoff, only Beethoven. The performance does not need to be especially nice, because Beethoven was not nice. He came to change this world, not to accept it. He created an emotional roller-coaster - he pushes and embraces you, he screams at you and sings with you. As my teacher Leon Fleischer says, if you do not exaggerate, you will never learn where the limits are. And I personally love going beyond the limits." Alon Goldstein plays Beethoven's Concerto No. 1 Thursday and Saturday night at Tel Aviv's Mann Auditorium. Sunday night he performs at the ICC in Jerusalem. The concerts start at 8:30.