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Each time I head to Israel I experience a very special, homey feeling, which is similar to that of visiting my native Tbilisi, where my parents live," says US-based Georgian pianist Alexander Korsantia in a phone interview from Boston. "This is not because I've been to Israel on numerous occasions and the place is simply familiar to me. Rather, I have very close relationship with so many people there that a sensation of a long trip turns into an anticipation of a reunion with dear friends."
On February 27, Korsantia will play Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 at the Classics at the Red Sea Festival with the Mariinsky Orchestra under maestro Valery Gergiev, and later he will tour the country with the Israeli Camerata.
Yet even before that, he will stop in Warsaw, Poland, for a special recital, in which he appears with "wonderful young Georgian pianist Ketevan Badridze" to play Mozart, Ravel and Mussorgsky.
"A lot is to be done nowadays, especially by us Georgians, to show to the world the peaceful face of Georgia, to present its rich culture, to demonstrate its warm and humane facet, and as such to be more accepted by the rest of the nations," accentuates Korsantia.
Viewing himself as an ambassador for his country, Korsantia already in October 2006 made it a point to perform in Moscow, when the relationship between Russia and Georgia had deteriorated. "Our land is situated on the crossroads of civilizations and its culture has absorbed various influences from Asia, Russia, Eastern Europe and also the Mediterranean; this is what makes it special," explains the musician.
Today, it is most important for Korsantia to appear once again on one stage with "an outstanding conductor, Valery Gergiev - and not only musically, but also politically. We all remember the dramatic performance of his Mariinsky Orchestra on the ruins of Tskhinvali in August 2008, at the peak of the war between Russia and Georgia. It was dedicated to the memory of the Ossetians, who died in the city.
"For me, what was lacking was the notice of the Georgian victims - a war is always a tragedy for one and all, and I believe art and artists are able to transcend the borders dividing people."
Korsantia will dedicate the proceedings from the both concerts, in Warsaw and Eilat, to Yavnana, an international charity organization that supports the needy and the orphans - the victims of hostilities - in Georgia. The foundation was inaugurated some four or five years ago by a prominent Georgian singer, Paata Burchuladze.
FROM EILAT, the pianist will continue to Jerusalem, where he will participate in a series of concerts with the Israeli Camerata under its artistic director, Avner Biron, starting March 2. The program features two scherzi for solo piano by Chopin, Concerto No. 1 by Shostakovich, Metamorphosen by R.Strauss, as well as the world premiere of a piece by "a wonderful Israeli-Georgian composer and my dearest friend, Joseph Bardanashvili - I am proud and happy to find myself in this gorgeous musical company!"
Korsantia, who moved to the US in 1992, has finally landed in Boston, where he serves as a Professor of Piano on the faculty of the New England Conservatory. His pianist wife, a stunningly beautiful Nea, is a piano teacher, too, while their 21-year-old son Nicky is a science student - "and we both listen to what he tells us with our mouths wide open," says the warm family man.
Korsantia has nothing but praise for both the city, with what is "probably the country's richest cultural life," and the Conservatory and its traditions. "I have a large class of extremely talented students; regretfully, my studio is unable to accept everyone who wants to study with me, but when one student graduates, a new one enters. Some of my graduates are international contests winners. Time consuming as it is, I enjoy teaching and I try to combine it with my performing career," which spans both Americas, Europe and of course his city of birth, Tbilisi.
Alexander Korsantia plays with the Mariinsky Orchestra under Valery Gergiev on February 27 in Eilat; the Israeli Camerata March 2 at the Performing Arts Center in Kfar Shmaryahu; at the YMCA in Jerusalem on March 3; at the Wix Auditorium at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot on March 4; at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on March 5; and at the Performing Arts Centers of Herzliya, Ganei Tikva and Ashkelon on March 8, 9 and 10, respectively.