(photo credit: LEON LE)
The third annual Pianos will take place at the Jerusalem Theatre on December 23 to 25. The festival, directed by composer and music life organizer Michael Wolpe, will host about 300 pianists who work in various genres of music, from classical and pop to jazz and Hebrew songs.
The festival will also serve as a meeting place for artists who will perform together in special programs.
Israeli classical pianist Andy Feldbau, 32, is among the participants. At the festival, he will perform with composer/pianist Shlomo Gronich in a program dedicated to Earl Wild’s arrangements of George Gershwin’s songs, such as “The Man I Love,” “I Got Rhythm” and “Embraceable You.”
Unlike many Israeli musicians of international caliber, Feldbau returned to Israel last year after completing his education abroad.
“This is my home,” he says simply.
“This is where my family and my friends live; this is where my colleagues teach at the Academy of Music, and this is where my audience is. I feel more secure here in many ways, and I feel more excited performing in a modest hall in Tel Aviv than, say, performing with the Jewish Orchestra of Los Angeles in front of 3,000 people – with all due respect to the attentive and devoted American audience.”
Born in Tel Aviv, Feldbau is the first professional artist in his family.
“I am a weird bird among my relatives,” he says. “Although there are no artists in my family, I was exposed to classical music from an early age, and I am grateful to my parents who recognized my gift for music and supported me.”
That said, Feldbau started playing piano quite late, at age 13. His progress was very fast. A year later, he was accepted to the Thelma Yellin School of Arts and later completed his studies at the Tel Aviv Music Academy.
He then entered the Juilliard School of Music in New York, where he received his Artists Diploma.
“In New York, I missed Tel Aviv. I missed its atmosphere and concerts. I wanted to celebrate holidays with my family, and despite the high travel expenses, I visited home several times a year. This is a crisis that everybody goes through. For some it takes a year, and for others just a few months. I found myself speaking more Hebrew than English and sticking to my Israeli friends,” he recounts.
Last year Feldbau returned to Israel and decided to build his music career at home, although he had quite a few performances at such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall to his credit.
Granted, the local classical stage is quite crowded, but the young pianist, who is working on his first album, has managed to find his own place in the world of Israeli music. He will perform his own arrangement of Saint Saens’s The Carnival of Animals with the Haifa Symphony and Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Jerusalem Symphony. He will also perform in various concert series, such as the Mishkenot Sha’ananim series in Jerusalem and the Felicja Blumental Center in Tel Aviv.
He is also planning for seasons to come, such as performing chamber music with his own ensemble.
“Although I perform mostly in recitals or as a soloist with an orchestra, chamber music also attracts me,” he says.
Feldbau admits that the local music stage is crowded but says there is still room for performers.
“Besides major stages, there are minor and intimate venues, and I see that as a new trend in local music. On my return from abroad, I was warmly received in Israel. I feel that people treat me differently now – probably because I acquired knowledge and experience and achieved something in the field of music. This is a very competitive world, and being accepted to Juilliard and later performing at prestigious venues in the US and Europe is not something that is taken for granted. This new attitude helped me a lot in finding my new place in Israel after six years of absence. I think that my attitude toward someone who returned home after succeeding abroad would have been the same. Meanwhile, I am not performing abroad; I’m concentrating on my performances in Israel.”
Speaking about the festival, Feldbau says, “I am thrilled that Michael Wolpe invited me to participate. I love the concept of bringing together classical pianists and other musicians who are well known in their field. The festival also gives a stage for promising young artists who are just starting their career, and I think that as important. Michael Wolpe is famous for his openness, for the freshness of his ideas. I think the festival will be an unforgettable experience for me and the other participants and, of course, the public.”For the full program and reservations: http://www.jerusalem-theatre.co.il/website/summer/index.html