Friday, 23 April 2010

The Israeli-Arab Piano Duo: YARON KOHLBERG and HARONI BISHARA / Review

The Israeli-Arab Piano Duo:
NAFA Lee Foundation Theatre
Thursday (22 April 2010)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 24 April 2010.

Music unites the seemingly incompatible and conquers insurmountable odds. Daniel Barenboim and his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which brings together Palestinian and Israeli musicians, was a personal vision and dream come true. On a smaller scale, the piano duo of Israeli Yaron Kohlberg and Arab Haroni Bishara served the same mission of healing rifts and making peace.

The duo programme came close to never taking off, as Bishara only arrived on a flight from Berlin with just three hours to spare. Unperturbed, the duo launched into Shostakovich’s single-movement Concertino in A minor (Op.94), a congenial work much in the spirit of his Festive Overture and Second Piano Concerto. Their execution was close to perfection with melody closely allied with counterpoint, and driven at dizzying high speeds.

Then both pianists performed their solo segments. The gangly Bishara sports an easy nonchalance, which belied a steely intensity applied to Chopin’s Fourth Ballade that built gradually built up to a tumultuous climax. There was a tad of heavy-handedness in the opening of Liszt’s La Campanella, but his resplendent trills really made the bells ring. If there were some wrong notes, those could be attributed to jetlag.

Kohlberg was magnificent
in a selection of Chopin's Préludes & Études
Kohlberg, who had considerable more practice time, was flawless in his Chopin selection. His suite of 14 Préludes (from Op.28) was a kaleidoscopic journey that brought out every facet of the French-Polish composer’s artistry. From simplicity to devilish difficulty, each gem was made to sparkle. The centerpiece, the “Raindrop” Prélude in D flat major was so coloured as to be a true portrait of world-weariness.

Three Études, including the “Revolutionary” and “Winter Wind”, were whipped off with such enviable ease and finesse that his triumphs at the 2007 Cleveland International Piano Competition seemed almost matter of fact.

Reunited for the final work, the duo gave a most personalised account of Darius Milhaud’s popular Scaramouche. Getting the notes right was no longer an issue; instead here was the chance to tease out the nuances and delight in the oh-so-naughty bits. The final Brasileira, a samba number, reveled in vivacity and velocity. Why do they play so fast? Simply because they can, and can do so convincingly.
Bishara (left) still looks a bit dazed
after his 20 hour trip from Berlin.
This concert was organised by the Embassy of Israel in celebration of Israel's 62nd year of independance.

1 comment:

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