(Photograph by Marco Borggreve)

 

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and make it your career?

My family owned a piano but no one was playing it. I was somehow intrigued by it and began to pick out all kinds of cheesy radio tunes and later tried to harmonize them. The piano is a very friendly instrument if you are 5 years old and eager to make a sound, much more so than the violin which makes you practically languish for months until anything more than a scratch is heard. But more than that, I particularly remember how gloriously rewarding it felt to be able to add my own crude chords to those tunes and to literally touch the magic that is melody and accompaniment.                                                                                                                          

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?

I was very lucky to have a rich musical education from a very early age and the opportunity to study not only piano but also composition and improvisation since I was about 9 had a big influence, I feel, on the way music seemed to me. I would like to think that it enabled me to look at music also through the eyes of the composer and not only from the angle of the performer.

But I was also emotionally affected a lot by the life stories of the great composers, particularly Mozart (Amadeus had just come out as a movie and I went to see it 3 times! At the part where they sing the finale of The Abduction from the Seraglio I completely forgot I was at the movies and started applauding vigorously – I can still remember all those heads turning back at me…) and Beethoven (a dog-eared copy of a book on the lives of composers included a heart-wrenching account of the miseries of his childhood which left me devastated).

Later on, it was mostly recordings that I listened to endlessly as well as a few unforgettable concerts I was lucky enough to be taken to, that made me feel that music was an inseparable part of who I am.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

The greatest challenge for any performer is to reach the feeling that he or she was able to bring across exactly what they see and feel in the piece and that the audience has been there with them in it throughout. The second greatest challenge is to persist in this quest without being distracted or discouraged by the more mundane aspects of the music business, which are inescapable in their own way.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of? 

The performances that make me feel most satisfied are the ones where I felt as if (and I repeat, as if!) I was creating the piece as it goes along. Doesn’t happen too often, unfortunately but that’s the goal. As for recordings, I don’t really listen to my own recordings after they are finished because one’s views of pieces naturally changes with time and, of course, once a recording is done, it’s done…

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I try to avoid seeing works I play this way, because the ones I feel closest to also tend to be ones you spend a lifetime with and never cease to study. But in recent years, I have gravitated towards Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert to a certain extent.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I try to start with a main piece that I feel an uncontrollable urge to learn and then see what could go with it in a way that would either illuminate it in an interesting way or that would provide an intriguing contrast to it. I also try to keep a healthy mix of new and less new pieces, as much as possible.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

There isn’t a single one, but of course there are some that immediately come to mind, with very special acoustics and atmosphere, such as Wigmore Hall in London, to pick a famous example. But also places like Sala di Notari in Perugia, Italy – which is not a full-time concert hall but is absolutely ravishing.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

I don’t get to listen to music nearly as much as I would like, but when I do I am always in the mood for one of the Mozart da Ponte operas, for example. But there are many others.

Who are your favourite musicians?

What is your most memorable concert experience?

As a child growing up in Israel, one of the concerts that really left a mark was a recital by Radu Lupu which felt like a transformative experience in real time. Another was the first time I heard the Brahms D Minor Piano Concerto. I actually don’t remember the circumstances at all, but I vividly recall the terrifying bang of the timpani and horns in the very beginning and the overall impression that the opening tutti made on me, as if I was being let into the darker realms of music for the very first time.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

That what we think we are doing is often perceived very differently to outside listeners and that learning how to listen that way to yourself while you are playing is single most important thing any musician can ever strive to accomplish.

What are you working on at the moment?

More Schubert, as well as Haydn (one of the pieces is subtitled “It takes Eight to sterilize a Sow”…), some Mozart, some Ligeti…

www.shaiwosner.com

I can think of few better ways to spend a Monday lunchtime than enjoying piano music in a beautiful setting such as the Wren church of St James’s, Piccadilly. It was doubly pleasing to escape the cold October rain on this particular Monday.

St James’s Piccadilly hosts regular lunchtime recitals, mostly featuring up-and-coming and emerging artists. There is no entrance charge, though audience members are invited to make a donation afterwards to enable the church to continue to host these concerts.

A multi-award winning graduate of the Royal College of Music, pianist Amit Yahav is now pursuing a career as a performing artist as well as undertaking doctoral studies into the music of Chopin, at the RCM. He has received particular praise for his performances of Mozart, Chopin, Schumann and Liszt.

Amit opened his recital with Bach’s Partita No. 2 in C minor BWV 826. The Partitas were the last set of keyboard works Bach composed, and are the most technically demanding of all his keyboard suites. They were originally published separately, and later collected into a single volume, known as the Clavier-Übung I (Keyboard Practice), the title suggesting that Bach regarded these as technical works for rather than music for performance. In fact, like the French and English Suites, the Partitas are extremely satisfying, enjoyable and varied works, for both performer and listener.

The C minor Partita opens with grand orchestral statements before moving into more fluid territory, to which Amit brought great clarity of articulation, despite the rather echoey acoustic in the church, and the large voice of the Fazioli grand piano. The subsequent movements were shapely, Amit always sensitive to the melodic lines and “voices” so crucial to Bach’s music. The Courante, Rondeaux and Capriccio were sprightly, imbued with wit, despite the minor key.

The Schumann Humoresque Opus 20 might seem a strange pairing with Bach’s mannered arabesques, but in fact both pieces worked well together as a programme. The Humoresque shares a number of features with the Partita, most notably its changes of mood and tempo through the individual movements. The work consists of seven movements, to be played attaca one after another. Amit was adept at neatly capturing the mercurial wit and humour of Schumann’s writing, highlighting Schumann’s dual musical personalities: episodes of warm lyricism and emotional depth were contrasted with masterly double-octave passages, nimble tempos, and full-toned fortissimos. This was an extremely enjoyable concert, the music performed with finesse, sensitivity, and obvious commitment by this young artist.

Details of future performances by Amit Yahav can be found on his website

Meet the Artist….,.Amit Yahav

 

(©2014 Amit Yahav)

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and make it your career?

There was a piano in the house ever since before I was born. It was my mother’s; she had played the piano as a young girl, and still plays the piano as a hobby occasionally today. It was a brown upright piano, which her grandfather had purchased for her. I have loved music for as long as I have memories, and have always enjoyed playing the piano. When I was slightly older and more advanced, my teacher at the time, Oscar Cano, explained to my parents that I needed a better instrument in order to make further progress. It was around the times that my parents bought a grand piano that they were able to afford, and I started going to watch concerts at the Concertgebouw (I grew up in Amsterdam) that I remember thinking, I want to be on that stage.

Who or what were the most important influences on your playing?

The greatest influences on my playing have been three of my teachers: in no particular order, the late Yonty Solomon, Oscar Cano, Mikhail Kazakevich and Niel Immelman. Most of what I know about playing the piano I learnt from these four great pianists.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

The music profession is one that requires a lot of persistence, and a great deal of determination. From performing and recording to teaching, almost everything in music is a challenge. For me it has always been a question of finding a new approach to learning a passage, or to explaining something to a student, etc.

The fact that classical music is being somewhat pushed aside in favour of other forms of music means that we keep being challenged to keep this century-old tradition alive, and to keep it relevant.

Which performances/compositions/recordings are you most proud of?

In June 2012, I played my Artist Diploma recital at the Royal College of Music. The programme included two Beethoven sonatas (“Moonlight” and “Appassionata”), as well as the Liszt Dante Sonata and Chopin’s G Minor Ballade. This mammoth programme, without a break, was a performance of which I was very proud.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

Every performance venue is different. I very much enjoyed playing in the Kleine Zaal of Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, the the Felicja Blumental Hall in Tel Aviv, and in the Purcell Room in London. I am generally more preoccupied with the instrument than with the hall. I love playing in locations that are more intimate, because I feel that I can then really communicate with everyone in the audience.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

This is difficult. There are so many! I really enjoy playing Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Liszt Sonata, Beethoven’s “Appassionata” and his Fourth Concerto, so many things by Chopin, Saint-Saëns’s G Minor Concerto… Like I said, there are so many!

Who are your favourite musicians?

I love listening to Radu Lupu and Grigory Sokolov playing live. Of those pianists who are no longer alive, I really love many of Arrau’s recordings, as well as those of

Gilels’s and Richter’s. One of the pianists whose recordings I really admire is Julius Katchen. For some unknown reason, despite being quite a well-known name during his life, he seems to have been somewhat forgotten of late.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I remember watching the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under Zubin Mehta at the BBC Proms. It was a dreadful experience, in a way, because people with political affiliations made great efforts to try and stop the concert and interrupt it in the middle. The orchestra, however, played all the way to the end. For me, it was a sort of affirmation of the power of music, and how it is above political divisions.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

I think that good practice habits are crucial. Learning how to practise efficiently can dramatically reduce the amount of time one needs to spend practising a given passage. This has two important implications. Firstly, it allows one to learn a greater amount of repertoire, and to learn works quickly. I had to learn Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto in 4 weeks once. Secondly, the risk of repetitive strain injuries is reduced if one doesn’t need to spend 8 hours a day practising.

What are you working on at the moment?

Bach – C Minor Partita

Chopin – Polonaises op. 26, Concerto in F Minor op.21

Liszt – Transcendental Etude in F Minor (no. 10)

What do you enjoy doing most?

I love it when I get the time and the chance to learn something new. Preparing a new work for performance or recording is, for me, the ultimate journey of discovery.

Interview date October 2013

Amit Yahav’s debut CD of works by Chopin, including the Ballades, is available now. Further details here

Recipient of numerous international scholarships and awards, Amit Yahav is a graduate of the Royal College of Music with distinction. Following his distinction on the Master of Music course, he was invited to participate in the RCM’s exclusive Artist Diploma programme under the tutelage of Prof. Niel Immelman and Prof. Vanessa Latarche, from which he also graduated with distinction. Previously, he had studied in London with the legendary Prof. Yonty Solomon and Prof. Mikhail Kazakevich, and in Amsterdam with Oscar Cano and Marjès Benoist.

Amit Yahav’s full biography

www.amityahav.com

Nadav Hertzka

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and make it your career?

There was always music in my family, my father played the cello as a boy and my sister played piano for a few years. It was never a conscious decision to make it a career, more of a realisation that this is what I wanted to do with my life. I don’t want to sound too naïve, but I still view it that way.

Who or what are the most important influences on your playing?

In a way, the early influences are the most important ones, so I still consider the first recording I’ve heard of Murray Perahia as the single most powerful influence on my playing.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

There are lots of imperfect pianos out there, flight delays, last minute repertoire changes, etc. The main challenge is to have the right approach and try to make the best out of every situation.

Tell me about your new recording. How did you find the recording experience?

I feel very lucky, I’ve had a gorgeous Fazioli and an incredible team to work with. I’ve been in a studio many times before, but Henry Wood Hall felt different of course, a place with such rich history of recordings. At first you’re very aware of the situation, but once you let go it’s really just you and the music, and that’s a beautiful feeling.

I hear there is a second recording coming up in 2014?

Yes, I’m already hard at work. Very exciting repertoire, and it also gives me a chance to work with both my teachers again, Arie Vardi and Christopher Elton, so I’m very happy about that as well.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

I’ve performed several times in Wigmore Hall now and each time is special. So that’s probably my favourite.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

Anything by Schubert, really. I hope that doesn’t sound too simplistic.

Which performances/compositions/recordings are you most proud of?

Well, I don’t compose, but I did write a few Cadenzas to some Mozart Concerti. Not proud enough I guess, in the end I’ve always played the original Mozart cadenza.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Playing Mozart’s “Coronation” Concerto, and from the first note everything just clicked, it all fell into place straight away. That’s very rare.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

I think the most important thing is to understand the language, how music is written. There’s a strange Schenkerian consensus among too many people I think, that no one seems to question. To impose this method on every piece, every composer, is precisely to miss the point. It also goes without saying that one should be familiar with as much repertoire as possible, especially the kind you don’t find appealing at first.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m preparing for some concerts, playing Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet for the first time, as well as some new Liszt and Debussy. I’m also premièring a new work by Freya Waley-Cohen, titled “Five Breaths”.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I don’t know about “perfect”, but in one way or another it would include a David Aaronovitch piece, defending free expression and democratic values, a Mahler Symphony and most likely some Baklavas to go with my Turkish coffee.

Nadav Hertzka performs in the “Pietre Che Cantano” international Festival in Rocca di Mezzo, Italy.

Nadav’s Tchaikovsky disc (Skarbo) is available now from Amazon, iTunes and other retailers.

Israeli pianist Nadav Hertzka has performed throughout the United States, Europe and Asia in major venues such as Carnegie Weill Hall, Wigmore Hall, Kings Place, Shanghai Conservatory, and Avery Fisher Hall. His festival appearances include the Mostly Mozart Festival in Lincoln Center, the Beethoven Festival in Israel and the Mozart Festival in Malta, as well as engagements in China, Russia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, England and Scotland.

Mr. Hertzka made his orchestral debut at age 14 with the Haifa Symphony Orchestra, and has since worked with conductors Trevor Pinnock, Yi-An Xu, Mendi Rodan, Ishay Steckler, Eliezer Hachiti and Talia Ilan among others. He was featured on Radio and Television, including BBC3 and BBC Scotland. Winner of many international prizes and awards, including the Pinault Society International Piano Competition in New-York, the Frank Peleg and Ben-Haim competitions in Israel, the Rubin Academy Piano Prize, The Daniel Howard Trust Award, the Carlton House Award, and Howard de Walden Award. He is also a winner of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation Scholarship Competition, and has won scholarships in both Piano and Chamber Music.

Born in Tel-Aviv in 1986, Mr. Hertzka began his studies at age seven with Mrs. Nina Tansky. In 1996, he continued his studies with Mrs. Hadassah Gonen at the Israeli Conservatory of Music. He received his BMus Degree from the Tel-Aviv Rubin Academy as a student of Prof. Arie Vardi, and his MA Degree with Mr. Christopher Elton at the Royal Academy of Music, London.