OBITUARY: TEMURI AKHOBADZE, PIANIST &  WELL-LOVED TEACHER PASSES  AWAY  SUDDENLY

OBITUARY: TEMURI AKHOBADZE, PIANIST & WELL-LOVED TEACHER PASSES AWAY SUDDENLY

It was a great shock to hear of the untimely passing of a very close friend, the wonderful Georgian pianist and teacher Temuri Akhobadze (1947-2014). We first met years ago as judges of the Palm Beach Invitational Piano Competition. While enjoying a successful career in New York City, he did not forget his less fortunate students whom he continued to help. Besides teaching and playing recitals, he gave master classes which were always well received. When I gave master classes in Tibilsi, Georgia, it was obvious to me that he was much loved by the musical community. He will be laid to rest in his native country. Temuri Akhobodze is survived by his wife, Marie Claude, his daughter, Natalie and step- daughter Cecile.

Below is his official bio.

Temuri Akhobadze

Temuri Akhobadze

Temuri Akhobadze, Distinguished Artist of the Republic of Georgia, is recognized for carrying on the legacy of the traditional old school of Russian piano playing whose roots lie in the inspired musicianship of Franz Liszt and Alexander Siloti. This school is characterized by its romantic and spiritual approach, and its most prominent exponents include Vladimir Horowitz, Benno Moiseiwitsch, and Ignaz Friedman.

Born to a musical family in Tbilisi, Georgia, Temuri began studying piano at the Special School for Gifted Children at the age of five. After graduating from the Tbilisi State Conservatory with the highest honors, he continued his studies at the Moscow Conservatory for ten years, first as a student of Yakov Milstein and then as Professor Milstein’s assistant. In his comments about Temuri’s Ph.D. performance in the Conservatory’s Tchaikovsky Hall, Milstein wrote “I have no need to describe Temuri’s playing in words; listen to him play for only a few minutes and you will understand what an extraordinary talent he is.”

Under the auspices of the Soyuzconcert, the National Concert Management in Moscow, Temuri performed more than 400 solo recitals and conducted master classes in major conservatories throughout the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, France, and Austria. He also became Professor of Piano at the Tbilisi State Conservatory and recorded for the Melodiya label.

In 1992, Temuri decided to move to America. In his first recital, he said hello to his new country with the same Scriabin Preludes you can hear on the Classical Archives. Since then, he has become a Steinway Artist and a member of the Palm Beach International Piano Competition Jury, where his duties include leading master classes and performing recitals. His most recent appearances include solo performances at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall and the Tanglewood Music Festival, as well as a gala concert in Jerusalem celebrating Israeli-Georgian friendship. In April of 2000, Temuri returned to Tbilisi to receive the “Order of Honor” from President Eduard Shevernadze.


Young Concert Artists (YCA) presents Yun-Chin Zhou in Review

Young Concert Artists (YCA) presents Yun-Chin Zhou in Review

Yun-Chin Zhou, piano
Winner of the  2013 Young Concert Artists  International Auditions
The Peter Marino Concert
Susan Wadsworth, Director
Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
November 18, 2014

On a terribly cold and windy night, Pianist Yun- Chin Zhou made an promising debut under the auspices of the indefatigable Susan Wadsworth, celebrating her 54th year as founder of Young Concert Artists (YCA). The bone-chilling weather, however, didn’t diminish the size of the audience, who seemed quite happy to be there and entertained.

It was apparent that Mr. Zhou really was enjoying himself and the feedback of the audience which was at times very demonstrative with several standing ovations.

Mr. Zhou, born in China, began his piano studies at the age of seven. He came to the United States at the age of nineteen to study at the Curtis Institute of Music with Gary Graffman. He is currently working on a master’s degree on scholarship at The Juilliard School with Robert McDonald. He has won several awards both in China and internationally.

The program took awhile to catch on as there wasn’t much contrast to start. He opened with a deceptively simple sonata of Haydn, the E-flat major. Hob. XVI: 49. The performance could have benefited with a little more dramatic significance, and the polyphonic development could have been clearer. It lasted approximately thirteen minutes. This was followed by Liszt’s Benediction de Dieu dans la solitude, which lasts eighteen minutes, and while having many beautiful moments, overstays its welcome. The closer before intermission was the famously difficult transcription for piano of La Valse by Ravel. Here was something with which Mr. Zhou showed what he could do technically with the instrument. Mr. Zhou made this piece, a favorite of Ruth Laredo’s, his own. It was a pleasant coincidence that he won the Ruth Laredo Memorial Prize. I had the overall feeling that Mr. Zhou was very much influenced by the French School.

After intermission, Mr. Zhou performed Six Chansons by the French popular singer Charles Trenet (1913-2001), as transcribed for piano solo by pianist Alexis Weissenberg. They are full of charm, and quite jazzy, and I doubt Weissenberg played them any better. Mr. Zhou caught all the charm, cuteness, and jazz these songs had to offer. Mr. Zhou’s style was perfect, and for me the best performance of the concert. It was a little surprising to hear this music on a classical concert at Carnegie Hall, but the audience loved it.

There is no question but that Mr. Zhou has amazing fingers. Scales, trills and octaves in either hand were simply child’s play for him. I missed though a large sound, especially in the bass, which could be attributed to the instrument- it is hard to say. Mr. Zhou does not use his shoulders or even much arm weight, which could also account for this certain thinness of tone and occasionally harsh sound in an attempt to force the instrument to play loud. This was apparent to me particularly in the 1931 revised version of the Rachmaninoff Sonata No. 2, which closed the recital. As if the Rachmaninoff Sonata wasn’t enough, Mr. Zhou gave a stunning account of the Soirée de Vienne, Op. 56, a paraphrase of themes from Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, as arranged by Alfred Grünfeld. The audience rightfully cheered yelling “Bravo!” at the close. There was to be another encore, a beautifully performed arrangement of “My Joys” from Polish Songs, Op. 74 by Chopin-Liszt.


HARRIS GOLDSMITH, CRITIC and PIANIST PASSES AWAY at 78.

HARRIS GOLDSMITH, CRITIC and PIANIST PASSES AWAY at 78.

 As New York Concert Review wrote in the New York Times,

 “IT’S WITH DEEP SADNESS THAT NEW YORK CONCERT REVIEW MOURNS

THE PASSING OF THE INIMITABLE MUSICAL POLYMATH, HARRIS GOLDSMITH.”

He was one of the first critics to be invited to join our staff at New York Concert Review over 21 years ago! Needless to say, we were delighted when he agreed as he had a reputation of many years of experience, having written for numerous major music magazines and newspapers. He taught at the Mannes College the New School for Music, gave classes at the Eastman School of Music and coached several up-coming talented pianists, string players and chamber groups. Mr. Goldsmith was also a visiting professor at the State University of New York, Binghamton, now called Binghamton University. Mr. Goldsmith graduated from New York’s High School of Music and Art, received his bachelor’s and master‘s degrees from the Manhattan School of Music where he was a student of Robert Goldsand.

His reviews could be highly caustic, yet at times highly praiseworthy.

In an obituary in the New York Times of April 23, Vivien Schweitzer wrote, ‘In a recent article for New York Concert Review, for example, he wrote about the young cellist James Jeonghwan Kim, ‘Never before have I encountered such winged, such airborne joy, such silken smooth bowing and tone production.’

It was rare that you could attend a concert, especially of a pianist, and not see Harris Goldsmith. Music was his life! No immediate family members survive.


A Chinese New Year Celebration: “The Year of the Horse”

A Chinese New Year Celebration: “The Year of the Horse”

A Chinese New Year Celebration: “The Year of the Horse”
New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center; February 1, 2014
Long Yu, conductor; Yuja Wang, piano;Cho-Liang Lin, violin;
Jian Wang, cello (New York Philharmonic debut)
Song Zuying, vocalist (New York Philharmonic debut)

There were no indications that this was a special Chinese New Year Concert except for two huge golden balloons of beautiful horses  placed on a ledge outside the hall and visible from both inside and outside. This–among other things this evening–was very tastefully done.

Cho-Liang Lin, violin

Cho-Liang Lin, violin; Long Yu conducts the New York Philharmonic in a Chinese New Year celebration at Avery Fisher Hall, 2/1/14. Photo by Chris Lee

The Concert opened with “The Triple Resurrection” for Violin, Violoncello, Piano and Orchestra (2013) by Tan Dun of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” fame. It is a one-movement work with no tempo indication and is a salute to Wagner’s Ring Cycle. It didn’t hold together very well and appeared to be an eclectic mix of sounds and styles. For sure, it wasn’t Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, which is undoubtedly a masterpiece. Yet Dun’s work did utilize all the program’s soloists (except the singer), and this was a great way to tie the musicians together. After this collaboration, Yuja Wang–who is fast becoming a star–performed solo. The problem here–in a performance of Rachmaninoff’s Paganini Variations–was one of balance, as there were times when Wang was completely inaudible. Yet when I heard her in Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with another orchestra in another hall, I heard every note! Was she tired here? Was the orchestra just too overpowering? Hard to say. When she was audible–mostly in the quiet, lyrical sections or high up on the keyboard where her magnificent fingers shined through with incredible clarity and scintillating playing–there were gorgeous moments that made one’s heart melt.

Song Zuying, vocalist

Song Zuying, vocalist & Long Yu conducts the New York Philharmonic in a Chinese New Year celebration at Avery Fisher Hall, 2/1/14. Photo by Chris Lee

The Chinese conductor, Long Yu, holds many posts in his native land, where he is chief conductor of the China Philharmonic Orchestra which he co-founded in 2000, and music director of the Shanghai and Guangzhou symphony orchestras. Mr.Yu played a leading role in creating the Shanghai Orchestral Academy as a partnership between the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, the Shanghai Conservatory and the New York Philharmonic. Maestro Yu has commissioned many works from well-known composers–both Western and Chinese–as well as appearing with the world’s leading orchestras and opera companies.  His conducting was very confident, solid and professional.

 

After Intermission, we heard “Spring Festival Overture” by Li Huanzhi, composed in 1955-56, which opened the “China in New York Festival” in January of 2012 and was conducted by Maestro Yu. It is rather old-fashioned and Romantic, sounding like the music of Antonin Dvorak. The well-known violinist Cho-Liang Lin, born in Taiwan, did in fact perform the music of Dvorak: the lovely and subdued Romance for Violin and Orchestra in F minor, Op.11 (1873/77). Lin is a poetic, mature artist who lives up to his superb reputation. A wonderful surprise was the cellist Jian Wang (no relation to Juja Wang), who was brilliant, extremely musical, and sensitive in the “Variations on a Rococo Theme” for Cello and Orchestra, Op.33 (1876).  Wang has a gorgeous sound. It isn’t surprising to read that while a young student at the Shanghai Conservatory, he was featured in the documentary film “From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China”. Stern promptly selected him out of a large group of young musicians and got the support for him to study with the great teacher and cellist Aldo Parisot at the Yale School of Music.

Last on the program was vocalist Song Zuying . Wearing traditional dress, she sang Chinese folksongs which were well orchestrated and extremely well received–especially by the Chinese members of the audience, who understand this type of high-pitched nasal singing. She was clearly a big hit, and the orchestra had an encore ready for her, which was happily performed and applauded. I think if overtime had been allowed, each soloist could have given encores! It was a revealing concert that showed an important musical evolution: how Chinese artists have become solid interpreters of western music. I look forward to the Philharmonic’s next Chinese New Year Concert!

 

 


Lang Lang, Superstar, Shows Why at Carnegie Hall

by Howard Aibel, President of New York Concert Review

Lang Lang

Lang Lang gave a phenomenal concert at Carnegie Hall, broadcast live on WQXR on May 29th, 2012. He is without a doubt the most famous pianist in the world, continuing to perform to sold out houses in every city he plays. In 2009, he appeared in Time Magazine’s annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. The Year before, more than four billion people saw his performance during the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games, inspiring over 40 million Chinese children to learn to play classical music on the piano. He just received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the Manhattan School of Music in recognition of his extraordinary accomplishments as a musician, educator, and musical ambassador to the world. Lang Lang may very well be the most popular classical musician on the globe, and it isn’t difficult to see why. There was an excitement in the air before the concert began, with a sold out house, including some 120 stage seats. Thankfully, the live broadcast on WQXR is still available by typing in WQXR.org Lang Lang. This was the first time he was performing Bach in Carnegie Hall, and there were video cameras and microphones surrounding the stage; talk about pressure! Yet he played comfortably and intimately, as if in his living room. Oddly, the only noticeable minor slips were in the Gigue of the Bach Partita, where the left hand crosses over the right in a fast tempo. In the slow Sarabande, Lang Lang used rubato to be expressive, but in Baroque music he needs to do this while playing in time, which he did in all the other movements. Still, his playing was much more natural than the Bach of Glenn Gould, who was considered the greatest “Bach Specialist”.

Next on the program was the last sonata of Schubert, written in the year of his death, 1828.   Interestingly, it is in the same key as the Bach Partita (B-flat Major), and it also presents itself with a quiet simplicity. His performance was filled with an abundance of colors, as he has tremendous control over the piano. He defines the epitome of technique: the ability to do anything you want at the instrument. He can play incredibly softly, yet his sound still carries to the last row in the hall. Of course, nobody can please everybody; that was the case with Glenn Gould, Leonard Bernstein, and Daniel Barenboim, but Lang Lang comes close to pleasing most audiences at only 29 years of age. His newfound demeanor has changed his concert attire, his repertoire, and his maturity. That is not to say he doesn’t have to develop more; he still could play with more simplicity and let the music speak for itself. Gary Graffman was Lang Lang’s teacher at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia from the time he was 14 until 19. Mr. Graffman said that Lang Lang sent a DVD performance of all 24 Chopin Etudes when he was 13 or 14 years old! At this Carnegie performance, the Etude in Thirds was so stupendous that it elicited bravos from the audience, which then broke into consistently boisterous applause, which gave him a moment to wipe his brow. He quickly continued with the difficult “Winter Wind Etude”, which was indeed fabulous. As if to prevent more applause, he dove into the last etude, the “Ocean”.

At the conclusion, the audience went wild, jumping to their feet screaming “Bravo!” The first of the two Liszt encores was a Romance in E Minor, which was lovingly performed, and it was followed by “La Campanella,” which was nothing short of stupendous. He could have gone on and on, but the house lights went up, signaling that it was the end to one of the best recitals I have ever heard.