'I perceive Israel as my country," says pianist Alexander Korsantia, who will perform Chopin's Second Concerto together with the Jerusalem Symphony under Leon Botstein in a special concert celebrating Israel's 60th Independence day and 70 years since the orchestra's founding. "13 years ago Israel embraced me. Since then our relationship only strengthens and I try never to let down the local audience," the pianist adds. Korsantia's career received a significant international push after he won first prize at the Arthur Rubinstein Piano Competition in 1995. Nowadays, Boston based Korsantia splits his time between teaching at the New England School of Music and performing throughout America and Europe. "I dedicate more and more of my time to teaching, probably because of all the knowledge and experience I've accumulated over the years, which I feel an obligation to pass on to the younger generation of musicians," he says, adding that he enjoys teaching immensely. He has nothing but positive things to say regarding both his students, whom he calls "kids," and the rich cultural traditions of the institution where he teaches. Soon, he excitedly points out, two young and gifted Israeli pianists, Ido Feldbaum and Shira Legman, will be joining him in his classes in Boston. Korsantia's performing career is decidedly on the upswing. "Lately, I played with the Cincinnati, Chicago and Pacific Symphony orchestras. I have also performed many solo recitals, playing music from J.S. Bach to Stravinsky to living composers like Bardanashvili and Kancheli," he recounts. However, "many solo series are now being closed, especially in America. This is a pity, because I believe that only in recitals can the artist fully demonstrate himself," Korsantia states. He plays most of the major pieces for piano by Russian and Western European composers, including Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Ravel and, he adds, "my beloved Prokofiev. A wonderful romantic concerto by Dvorak. And, my favorite second concerto by Shostakovich. A piece created to describe the strange atmosphere of the epoch that has still not lost its relevance." Lately, Korsantia has been playing piano concerts without a conductor. "This has nothing to do with my ego," the musician assures, "and I have not the slightest ambition of becoming a conductor, since there still are quite a few things I have to learn about the piano." He notes that he has played under excellent conductors and only rarely feels that orchestra and piano successfully merge into one. Beyond teaching and performing, Korsantia is preparing for the release of a collection of his own live recordings of Stravinsky's Firebird, which he is arranging and producing. Korsantia, who has been living in America for many years, maintains a strong relationship to his homeland of Georgia and sees himself as a representative of Georgian culture. "I owe what I have become not only to my teachers, but also my origins. Every Georgian has art and music in his or her genes," Korsantia says, performs in Georgia often and feels homesick should he remain abroad for more than a few months. Alexander Korsantia will take the stage at Jerusalem's Henry Crown Hall (5 Chopin St., (02) 561-1498/9) this Wednesday, May 7. The program also features Dvorak's Symphony #9 at 8:30 p.m.