The Arty Semite

Classical Pianist Goes Wild

By Marion Lignana Rosenberg

  • Print
  • Share Share

Two enthralling recordings that pair keyboard music from centuries past with contemporary works have been released this year. The first is Jeremy Denk’s “Ligeti/Beethoven” (Nonesuch), which bookends Beethoven’s otherworldly Sonata Opus 111 with György Ligeti’s astringent and electrifying études. The other is “Baroque Conversations” (Sony Classical) by the Jerusalem-born pianist and conductor “David Greilsammer,” who will play a late-night concert on August 14 at New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival and a recital on August 17 at the Ravinia Festival near Chicago.

Greilsammer is 35 and music director of the Geneva Chamber Orchestra. He has made a name for himself by crafting risky, imaginative programs: playing all of Mozart’s piano sonatas in one day, for example, or exploring links between Freemasonry and Kabbalah in music. He studied at the Rubin Conservatory in Jerusalem and in New York with Yoheved Kaplinsky and Richard Goode.

“Baroque Conversations” showcases Greilsammer’s seductive, deeply intelligent playing of an astonishing range of music. Four groups of musical encounters bracket 20th- and 21st-century works with earlier music, bathing all in kaleidoscopic colors. The restless intervals of pieces by Rameau and Soler find shadowy echoes in Morton Feldman’s spectral “Piano Piece”; the prepared-piano stutters of Nimrod Sahar’s “Aux murailles rougies” (honoring Juliano Mer-Khamis) shine a desolate light on the stately sadness of works by Froberger and Gibbons. The program also includes music by Couperin, Matan Porat, Handel, Frescobaldi, Helmut Lachenmann, and Sweelinck.

Greilsammer answered a few questions by email on the eve of his Mostly Mozart recital.

Marion Lignana Rosenberg: In your Twitter profile you write that you are “always interested in crazy musical projects.” What makes a project “crazy” for you?

David Greilsammer: Novelty, discovery and a singular vision. Last fall at La Gaité lyrique, for instance, we (the Geneva Chamber Orchestra) gave ten concerts in less than 48 hours (!) in which only baroque and contemporary pieces were performed. The programs presented surprising bridges and connections between those distinct worlds.

Can you give an example of a non-crazy project that doesn’t interest you?

I am amazed to see how many orchestral programs still follow the pattern “overture-concerto-intermission-symphony.” All other art forms have evolved in recent decades — dance, literature, theater, visual arts — but for some reason classical music lags behind.

What do you gain from performing all of Mozart’s piano sonatas in one day, and what do you think audiences take away from it?

We performers often play pieces out of context just because we have been taught to have a “well-balanced” and “neat” program. With the Mozart marathon, I felt that playing the sonatas back-to-back, showing how diverse they are and how much Mozart’s writing evolved in so many striking ways during his short life, would be a fascinating experience and journey.

Where do you stand on the HIP (historically informed performance) movement? Has it shaped your approach to, say, Handel and Couperin?

I have been deeply influenced by HIP and the fantastic Baroque ensembles that are active today. We can no longer look at Mozart, Bach, Handel, or Couperin or conceive of sound-making in the same way. It has shaped my approach just as today’s great avant-garde composers (Boulez, Sciarrino, Lachenmann) have, and just as great jazz pianists such as Keith Jarrett and Brad Meldhau have inspired me.

What can you tell us about Matan Porat’s “Whaam!” one of the works on “Baroque Conversation”s that you will play at Mostly Mozart and Ravinia?

The piece takes its inspiration from bebop and a painting by the pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, Whaam! (1963), that shows a plane exploding in the sky. It is imaginative, jazz-influenced, and completely wild.

Your CD is entitled “Baroque Conversations,” and you live in Paris, where l’art de la conversation remains a strong value. What does “conversation” mean to you?

I don’t think that my adoration of dialogue, conversation, building artistic bridges comes from living in one place or another. Without dialogue, it is impossible to move forward. It can be a dialogue between human beings and also between musical visions. By confronting different artistic worlds in one concert, you create a conversation that will inevitably illuminate ideas that are vital to keeping art alive.

What do you hope that listeners will overhear in the conversations on your disc — say, between Couperin and Porat?

They have in common many ideas, colors, shapes, phrases, and secrets. But I prefer to leave the freedom of discovering these “conversations” in the ears of listeners. The most beautiful thing is when the performer proposes something and the listener builds his or her own world while listening. This is the real freedom in art.

What can you tell us about your future plans?

A new Sony Classical recording will be released in 2013, and all I can say is that there will be some Mozart on it.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Music, Marion Lignana Rosenberg, Interviews, David Greilsammer, Classical Music, Baroque Conversations

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.