Showing the Israeli Audience How Mozart Should Be Played

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A superb lesson is not just a satisfying intellectual event; it can also be a meaningful sensual and emotional experience. This point was skillfully made on Wednesday night by the Georgian pianist

Alexander Korsantia, a familiar and welcome face on the local stage. He played Mozart: two early piano concerti, No. 8 in C major and No. 9 in E-flat major, (“Jenamy"), K. 271, considered among the early masterworks of the Viennese composer. Korsantia showed the audience how Mozart should be played today.

First, with a sense of having all the time in the world, an infinity in which to express anything that came to mind, with what seemed to be pure spontaneity. Brief pauses, lingering on phrases, a broad vision of the structure, each sound articulated even when it was one of dozens that flowed with enormous speed, with the naive virtuosity so characteristic of Mozart. Korsantia had time for it all.

Even after playing these pieces for what must have been the thousandth time, especially K. 271, a musical miracle from start to finish, Korsantia still found something unique to say. The colors he brought from the piano were like an orchestra in itself. The inner voices he chose to emphasize cast a new light on this familiar work. The combination of soft and percussive sounds, the courage to make subtle changes in tempo, the elegance and good humor, the confidence that it would all work out - in his playing, all these proved once again that a 250-year-old classical piece can still be as relevant as if it were written for contemporary listeners. And when performed by an artist with a radiant personality who gives himself up to the audience and who treats the music with uncompromising professionalism of the highest order, the result is an experiential and intellectual event that is both serious and fun.

As to the orchestra, where to start? Perhaps with the brighter side, its successful moments accompanying K. 271 and the festive air of this event - the first part of the two-year-long Amadeus Festival, which naturally drew an overflow audience that clearly enjoyed itself - as well as the joy of the musicians on stage.

But with all the good will in the world it's hard to find anything else positive to say about the Israel Chamber Orchestra's performance Wednesday night. In brief, it can be said that under conductor Yoav Talmi’s baton the orchestra learned nothing from Korsantia and ignored the suggestions in his playing. Its sound was coarse nearly throughout, heavy and even grating. The ICO seemed in such a hurry that it missed some entrances and generally seemed to lack self-confidence, inventiveness or imagination or even the ability to seek freedom and imagination.

Symphony No. 36 in C Major, K. 425 (“Linz”) is another of Mozart’s miracles, a condensed opera that dances and sings in the aristocratic manner of Haydn, full of little jokes and surprising, sharp corners. But Talmi was unable to bring out any of these features. Similarly, the accompaniment of, and dialogue with, the soloist, especially in Piano Concerto No. 8, displayed flaws in terms of musical balance and cleanness. This is Talmi’s first season with the ICO and it is to be hoped that the period of adjustment will be short and that he and the orchestra will soon learn how to work together in beautiful harmony.

Israel Chamber Orchestra at the Amadeus Festival, featuring the works of Mozart.

Conductor: Yoav Talmi

Piano soloist: Alexander Korsantia

Tel Aviv Museum of Art, October 30

Alexander Korsantia.

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