Silverman’s Mastery of Beethoven Continues


– Guest Post by Ori Mizrahi-Shalom –

A week after the first solo concert, Robert Silverman played the second evening of Beethoven sonatas. It was the same place, almost the same people, and I’m glad to say – the same pianist. Just better…

First, arriving at Le Petit Trianon, I had to circle the street several times to find a parking spot. I thought to myself “is this concert series becoming THAT popular?”

In short, no. There turned out to be some big screen and lots of kids on the next street, listening to some shallow speech with ads in the background. What a surreal concept. They could have been all enjoying a great evening of REAL music and outstanding entertainment just thirty seconds away. The sign of our time…

The selection that evening went from elementary to supremely hard. If you know the music, then you probably know what I mean. There was method to the madness, I think.

The first half of the evening was on the light side. Not overly demanding on technique, which requires special “flare” from the pianist to lift it up above the average. Silverman delivered this music with good phrasing and deep emotions. His interpretation of the music sounded to me very personal, the way that now I can identify with his style: thoughtful elegance, playing the fine line between the basic well-phrased theme and the explosive “show off” urge, that he sometimes still succumbs to…

I have no doubt in my mind that this back and forth stylistic contrast will be obvious on the final recordings and in fact I would be disappointed if it didn’t. That’s where the character of the musician shows and where the music takes a life of its own.

The second half of the evening included the more demanding sonata no 22 and the famous Appassionata. I know you’d expect me to rave about the latter and I indeed shall, but not for the obvious reasons.

As I mentioned in my first review, it’s easy to like Silverman with popular music, which the Appassionata surely is. The question is: can you LOVE Silverman playing popular music as such?

Sonata no 22 is quite demanding. Silverman usually plays from memory but for this one he had the sheet music. Tells you something… He ended up dropping a page on the floor and still finished it with striking brilliance. Tells you something… I remember that because at the end he threw a joke “I didn’t need it after all!”  This ability to go deep into the music and then “come down to earth” and connect with the audience is what made the event even more special. But then came the finale.

Appassionata is a demanding piece. Silverman did not need the sheet music for it. Perhaps it’s just impossible to read as you play at the intense levels that it demands. Perhaps it’s a testimony to the great familiarity with this music. Whatever it is, the musicianship was brilliant. Such an intense mix of music and outstanding polished technique is not something you witness every day.

I’m sure Silverman does not wish to feel that “spent” every time he plays the piece. You could tell it when he took a long pause after the first movement (and the long cheers) and took the time to wipe his forehead and take a deep breath. Perhaps Beethoven intended for it to be just like this and followed it by a much more relaxed second movement, which was also delivered in a magical way. The third and final movement is definitely another upward climb and was a perfect climax to a superb evening of piano music.

I don’t have to summarize that one because I already did that before writing the first line of this report a week after the event. The last paragraph was written first and it’s most appropriate! The evening of the concert, I sent a short email to Bob Walters:

You should have made it to the concert. I don’t think that I’ll ever in my lifetime hear piano playing at that level. The Appassionata must be Silverman’s favorite piece! What a night!

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San Francisco Audiophile Society

San Francisco Audiophile Society