Born to the keyboard

Pianist Roman Rabinovich will perform with the Ariel Quartet in January.

Ariel Quartet (photo credit: PR)
Ariel Quartet
(photo credit: PR)
Roman Rabinovich was born to the keyboard.
“I grew up in a family with two piano teachers, so music was around me all the time. I didn’t have much choice at that point,” says the 29-year-old Uzbekistan born Israeli pianist who will perform at the Jerusalem Music Centre's "Chamber Music at the Y" on January 7, 2016, together with the Ariel Quartet. The fivesome will play a varied program of works by Haydn, Schumann and 20th-century Hungarian composer Erno Dohnányi.
Not only was Rabinovich immersed in a world of music and music education from the word go, but he also benefited from a valuable domestic helping hand, principally from the maternal side.
“As to studying with my mother, I have to say that I’ve always had a teacher on the outside, and my mother was practicing with me at home, which was great. It is not easy for a kid to have the necessary discipline for studying music, and it was very helpful to be guided by both my mother and my father,” he says.
The youngster’s cultural and musical reach stretched even further when the family made aliya when he was eight years old.
“Tashkent is quite a big city and had a full cultural life, but it was provincial compared to Israel,” he notes. “The move didn’t feel too dramatic to me. I think the effect from that experience was powerful and overall positive. I learned how to adapt in a new environment and was exposed to amazing concerts of the IPO. Hearing many masterpieces of the symphonic and the concerto repertoire with such great soloists and conductors in live concerts for the first time shaped me as a musician. This had an everlasting effect on me,” he says.
The move here also expanded Rabinovich’s educational options.
“I was fortunate to have Arie Vardi as my teacher. He is a superb musician, a great pedagogue and is an important influence on my development,” he says.
Rabinovich’s early entry into the world of music, and at a high level, naturally led to an introduction to the performance arena. At the age of just 10 he performed 11 concerts in five major American cities and made his Israel Philharmonic Orchestra debut with Zubin Mehta on the conductor’s dais. Presumably, then he found his “own voice,” his individual approach to interpretation early on, too. However, the pianist says there was no epiphany juncture in his artistic evolution, as such.
“I don’t think I had a point when I felt I had found something,” he observes. “I think these things happen organically and is a continuous process. In art there is no point that you feel you that you arrived at something. I’m discovering new things every day.”
Over the years, Rabinovich also developed a passion for painting, and he cites early sources of inspiration from both disciplines.
”In music [my formative inspiration came from] Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Bartok, Sviatoslav Richter and [pianist Vladimir] Horowitz. In art, I would say Picasso, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and impressionists and German expressionists,” he says.
Instrumentalists endeavor to produce colors in their work, while painters frequently have a tempo to their brushwork, so it may follow that engaging in both sonic and visual areas of the arts may have a reciprocal effect.
“Images help in any kind of music,” he states, “but this is very personal, and each individual will see different things. In the classical period it might be architecture, balance and theater; in the romantic era, it is poetry or a love story; and in modern music, it is abstract painting, the sounds of nature and so on.”
Several years after Rabinovich’s early introduction to concert performances, he attained one of the most prestigious crowns available to classical pianists when he was among the top participants in the 2008 Arthur Rubinstein Competition, which has been held in Israel every three years since its inception in 1974. It was quite a feather in the then 23-year-old’s cap.
“It was a great honor. Rubinstein was my hero since I was a kid, so it meant so much to me. It was especially meaningful to me because, at the time, I was the first Israeli to get one of the top prizes,” he says.
Rabinovich placed second overall and also took second prize in the Best Performance of a Classical Concerto category.
Despite their relatively tender years, Rabinovich and his fellow musicians in the upcoming JMC concert – violinists Gershon Gerchikov and Sasha Kazovsky, violist Jan Grüning and cellist Amit Even-Tov – have followed a long road together thus far.
“The Ariel Quartet and I go back to our high school years, when we met at the summer course of chamber music in Zichron Ya’acov. It was then that I was exposed to the beauty and the wealth of chamber music,” says the pianist. “The quartet and I have performed together quite a bit over the years.
They are such fine musicians, and it is always a great joy to make music with them.”
The mutual admiration and accumulated creative synergy between Rabinovich and the quartet will surely come through loud and clear in Jerusalem in January.