Silverman Masterful in Audio High Concert Series

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— Guest Post by Ori Mizrahi-Shalom —

Background.  Many of us know pianist Robert Silverman through the Stereophile CD projects. In those, Silverman always showed a great mastery of the instrument. His touch is firm and his delivery smooth and powerful.

Prelude: 2009. BAAS members had the opportunity to hear Silverman last year at the Sherman Clay Steinway Store in Santa Clara (also organized by Audio High’s Michael Silver). During that rehearsal gig, I felt that he excelled at the virtuoso pieces, where speed and brilliance coupled with decades of familiarity with the instrument definitely pay dividends. It’s easy to like Silverman with “popular” music! I was less drawn to his interpretation of the more intimate pieces, however, where a musician must connect with the music and the audience by creating the ‘right’ mood and atmosphere. In those, technical qualities take a second place to deep soul-searching. I came out of the session last year not quite satisfied: it left me wanting for something more.

Recital I: September 9th 2010. I know the Le Petit Trianon Theater in San Jose from other concerts. It is a jewel! This 340 seat theater offers superb (!) acoustics. It is small enough to enjoy the music from practically every seat in the house but it’s even better when you pick your own… I was disappointed to see so few BAAS members. The theater was far from being full and that is a real pity, especially considering the good cause of raising funds for Stanford Children’s Hospital “rooms of magic” project. Perhaps the Thursday evening timing proved a challenge.

[If you’d like to attend Recital II this Thursday (9/16), let me know.  – Bob]

This concert was the first of a planned eight recording sessions encompassing the complete Beethoven piano sonata cycle. There was no soundman on stage, no drama. Just a few microphones and some equipment behind the piano. And a cover on the piano bench to absorb the squeaks…

My Reaction. Silverman showed up more than ready for the challenge.

Like all things in life, music requires a warm up and I found the first two movements to be in that category: decent but not entirely thrilling. But as the evening progressed, things got better and better.

The second sonata was the “highlight” of the evening and it suited Silverman’s style well. The “Waldstein” offers a virtuoso player anything he could wish for, and Silverman stepped beyond mere technical mastery. He added sensitive phrasing and smoothness that I haven’t heard from his previous recordings or the live session last year. It was the kind of music that I was hoping to hear but wasn’t sure I would.

I was delighted to hear music of great elegance, music which meshed delicate interpretation with a brilliant performance. I was for me a moment of musical heaven, and I’d like to believe that most of the audience had recognized the same joy. The cheers at the end of this second sonata left no mistake about that.

After the short intermission the audience was treated to more of the same. Silverman was “in the zone” and continued to deliver the goods. Suffice to say that the second half of the program was even better than the first!

I can sit at home and listen to great recordings on my system and I do enjoy that aspect of my love of music. On the other hand, any time I hear great music performed live by a master of the instrument, I recognize immediately how much the live music is superior to the recorded one. It’s the kind of experience that adds to my appreciation of music and musical arts.

If you got to this point in this article and did not doze off then you must be a music lover yourself. Take my advice and attend some of the follow up sessions. Beethoven sonatas seem to have just the right mix of soul and playfullness that matches Silverman to the tee and the result is pure musical joy. In a sense, Silverman faithfully followed the note for the first movement of sonata no. 28 by the Master himself: somewhat lively with the deepest feeling. Bravo!!!

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San Francisco Audiophile Society

San Francisco Audiophile Society