Honing formidable skills on pianos in the Negev

Each young pianist – ranging in age from 11 to 34 and hailing from around the world – is a distinguished soloist with lists of prizes, performances and credits accompanying their name.

By SARAH HERSHENSON
August 14, 2019 11:05
2 minute read.
Honing formidable skills on pianos in the Negev

TOM BORROW will join winners of this year’s Tel Hai Piano Competition for a gala concert at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. (photo credit: MICHAEL PABIA)

The desert has been alive with the sound of classical music. This summer marks the 27th consecutive season of the Tel-Hai International Piano Master Classes, currently held at the Sde Boker campus of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Before the two-week program began on July 28, a caravan of trucks from Tel Aviv, manned by highly skilled piano movers and technicians, transported enough of the best pianos for 84 pianists from 20 different countries, who are participating in the program. Each young pianist – ranging in age from 11 to 34 and hailing from around the world – is a distinguished soloist with lists of prizes, performances and credits accompanying their name.

Their goal was to study with 23 of the world’s greatest piano teachers, hone their already formidable skills, and build connections and friendships in the world of music which will enable them in the years ahead.

Throughout the year, the life of these young artists is hectic, and Tel-Hai offers them a short respite. Against the quiet and muted backdrop of the desert at Sde Boker, the young musicians have the chance to raise and perfect their skills as soloists in a relaxed atmosphere of camaraderie and shared interests.

Their schedule has been mornings – between 9 and 1 p.m. – devoted to private lessons with assigned faculty members. In addition, they have had the chance to expand their repertoires and engage in chamber ensembles (duos, trios, quartets and art song), which offer new dimensions to their playing.

A bonus is that the public is also invited to attend these lessons and gain from the comments and instruction. Outstanding students are recommended to meet with guest faculty, such as patron of the Tel-Hai program, pianist Evgeny Kissin, and participants of the program are invited to perform at open master classes which are held in the afternoons. Evenings are devoted to student concerts and other special events.

Among the program’s illustrious alumni is Lahav Shani, who will become the music director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra next season. Yoav Levanon, who has participated in the Tel-Hai program for the past six years, received the Young Talent 2019 Award from Spain’s Excelentia Foundation.

Another Tel-Hai alum is 19-year-old Israeli pianist Tom Borrow, who made his debut performance with the IPO last year to critical acclaim, joining conductor Yoel Levi when pianist Khatia Buniatishvilli and conductor Zubin Mehta had to cancel.

Borrow was mentored under the direction of Tel-Hai teacher Prof. Tomer Lev, head of the Buchmann Mehta School of Music at Tel Aviv University. Thursday night, Borrow will join this year’s winners of the Tel-Hai Piano Master Classes Concerto Competition on the concert stage of the Tel Aviv Museum for the Tel-Hai gala finale.


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