IBLA - NYC Spring Gala Concert
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall

April 18, 1999

By Harris Goldsmith

The IBLA Foundation presented a Gala concert by winners of their piano and belcanto competitions. The Foundation, created in 1992 as part of the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's discovery of America, has been sponsoring competitions with divisions in piano (The IBLA GRAND PRIZE) bel canto (the Bellini International Competition) a European International Competition for Composers, and - to be inaugurated this year - a baroque music competition.

It will be of interest to readers of the New York Concert Review Inc. that the Foundation's president is Salvatore Moltisanti whose December 1993 Weill Hall piano recital was enthusiastically reviewed by this writer in volume 1, n.2 of this publication.

With so many protagonists involved, and with such a diverse array of repertoire and genres, there is almost certainly bound to be some hits and misses in an event of this kind, but this "Night Game" (it began at 8:30 PM and, even with a few cancellation, ran into extra innings) including a few spectacular "home runs."

Two brilliant young Israeli pianists, Gil Garburg and Sivan Silver (both of them pupils of Arie Vardi) combined their copious talents in the first movement of Mozart's sonata for two pianos in D major K448 - a brilliantly articulated rhythmically incisive, musicianly performance for the opening salvo, ending the marathon with one of the most thrilling and exciting versions of Ravel's La Valse (in the composer's two piano format) it has been my pleasure to encounter. All too many interpreters hear La Valse as an innocuous, affectionate tribute to the Vienna of Johann Strauss but Garburg and Silver perceptively grasped Ravel's own description of this 1919 vortex ("Dancing on a Volcano") and the players has the discipline, abandon and technical control to approximate the essential orchestral colors, making us believe that we were hearing the genuine original. For once we were presented with a macabre social commentary - something of a precursor to Picasso's Guernica.

The printed program did not make it clear, but I take it that Mr. Garburg and Ms. Silver are not a regular duo: although they participated in tandem in Ravel's concerto in D major for the left hand, he played the solo part while she acted as the "orchestra" in a piano reduction. Garburg also was spotlighted as a soloist in a pair of Liszt transcriptions, of Schubert's Lied "Auf dem Wasser zu singen" and Wagner's "Liebestod" from "Tristan und Isolde." He likewise offered his own piano arrangements of the prologue and coronation from Mussorgsky's Boris Gudonov and (more dubiously), and excerpt from Rimsky's Scherarazade, replete with the famous violin solo - for the left alone!

Dmitri Korneev, (a young Russian pianist no further identified on the program) offered a solidly competent, albeit somewhat stolid and inelegant, account of the Schulz - Evler Arabesques on J Strauss's Blue Danube but your reviewer was much more taken with Naomi Hayashi, a young artist who was trained in Tokyo's Toho School and is presently working in Europe with Einar Steen Nokleberg. Ms. Hayashi's pellucid touch, relaxed and natural musicality, produced a stylish, patrician interpretation of Mozart's sonata in D major K311.

As for the vocal contingent, Medea Iassonidi, a Greek soprano, showed sensitivity and obvious temperament in the Air de Margherita from Gounod's Faust and Vilia's Song fom Lehar's the Merry Widow but she seemed a mite tremulous and nervous ( as well she might have been, hobbled with a stiff ungainly piano accompaniment from Valentina Bagrova, a last minute replacement, so I was informed, for another accompanist who was indisposed.) Would that Ms. Iassonidi had been fortunate to enjoy her own services at the keyboard: she was simply magnificent in that role, flexible, concentrated, always breathing, with Chinese soprano, Shen Dan, who offered Debussy's Romance and Apparition; Arkady Martirosyan, an Armenian baritone who sang Bellini's Cavatina di Rodolfo in full-bodied, forthright manner; and Marinè Deinyan, another Armenian soprano who offered Puccini's Vissi d'Arte from Tosca, Una voce poco fa from Rossini's il Barbiere di Siviglia and E' strano (with its appended Sempre Libera) from Verdi's La Traviata. Ms. Iassonidi, who can blame her?, was put in a "no win " situation officiating for another Russian soprano, Svetlana Cohen-Strezeva, who inflicted Mein Herr Marquis (in hideous "squid-ink" Russian diction!) from Die Fleidermaus by Strauss. Irina Bibeeva, yet another Russian would-be-diva, fared somewhat more forgivably with her Monologue from Puccini's Madame Butterfly; also Leonora's Aria from Verdi's La Forza del Destino, as did Ms. Bagrova on her behalf.

Harris Goldsmith