|Lilya Zilberstein: Soviet pianism lives!
||[Jun. 9th, 2009|06:15 pm]
The Keyboard Charitable Trust is dedicated to a noble cause: helping gifted young pianists to build a career, at a time when their debut concerts - which 20 years ago used to be routinely reviewed - scarcely ever merit mention in the press. (Who he? Never heard of him. Tell us about someone we know…) But the pianist who launched the Trust’s inaugural gala concert at the Wigmore Hall - where would chamber music be without this admirable institution? - was neither young nor unknown, just virtually unknown in this country. I had only clocked her through her four-hand appearances at the Lugano Festival, with her great mentor, Martha Argerich.
Born in Moscow in 1965, Lilya Zilberstein studied from the age of five at the celebrated Gnessin music school, where a host of stars, including Yevgeny Kissin, have cut their teeth. Winning competitions first in Russia, then beyond, she has enjoyed a dizzy concert career just about everywhere apart from London; now based in Germany, she tours with Argerich and Maxim Vengerov, and gives master classes in many conservatoires, including the Royal Academy.
Just how lucky her students are, was evident the moment her fingers touched the keys in Brahms’s Op 117 Intermezzi. The first, described by the composer as ‘the lullaby of my sorrows’, came with a wonderfully warm and singing tone; as the pieces unfolded, with that old-fashioned technique whereby the right hand sounds marginally before the left augmenting the expressiveness, we were transported to a long-gone world which lives on through its survivors. I’m talking about the golden age of Soviet pianism, whose finest flower was Sviatoslav Richter, but whose many other blooms still adorn the concert scene, with Zilberstein - with her amazing technique and magic touch - prominent among them.
If the Intermezzi seemed to swim in a great surrounding stillness, all hell broke loose when we entered Brahms’s Paganini Variations. After an immaculate statement of the theme, Zilberstein tore into the first variation with demonic force, with each succeeding one emerging in its own unique colours - soothing, insinuating, pleading, avenging; the whole thing was intoxicating. Rachmaninov’s Opus 32 Preludes formed the second half: they may not have the furnace-wrought perfection of the Brahms, but they too were magical. The packed audience at the Wigmore consisted of the usual suspects: it’s time the wider world woke up to her excellence. Why doesn’t the South Bank give her a break? There she’d be dynamite.