Tomer Gewirtzman, piano

Howland Chamber Music Circle's Friends Concert
June 8, 2017 (Thursday) at 7:30 PM at the Howland Cultural Center

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Sonata in C major, Hob.XVI:48                                           JOSEPH HAYDN                         
Andante con espressione
      Rondo (Presto)

Sonata No. 5                                                                       ANVER DORMAN
     Adagio con rubato
     Presto volando


Select Fairy Tales                                                         NIKOLAY MEDTNER                    
      Op. 51, No. 2
      Op. 34, No. 2
      Op. 26, No. 2
      Op. 20 No. 2

Sonata No. 3 in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 23                   ALEXANDER SCRIABIN  
      Presto con fuoco


One hour program without intermission
Program is subject to change


About the Artist

Tomer Gewirtzman is a winner of the Young Concert Artists International Auditions
and appears by special arrangement with YCA.


Program Notes

Michael Lebovitch

HAYDN:                           Sonata in C major, Hob.XVI:48

Unlike Mozart and Beethoven, Haydn was not known to be a keyboard virtuoso, and yet he left us an enormous output of keyboard works.  More than 60 Piano Sonatas survived, many are continuously in programs of leading pianists on the stage today.  Being in service, his career, and livelihood, depended far less on public performances as a soloist.

Early sonatas were clearly written with the harpsichord in mind.  They appear to have been written for a string instrument (violin or viola) first and then “transcribed” to the keyboard.  In fact, early sonatas were often published with “an accompaniment” of a violin and/or a cello; it is reasonable to state that Haydn may have first conceived his early works in the context of the string ensemble and then subsequently, he adapted his ideas to the keyboard.

Its hard to determine when Haydn started to prefer a fortepiano.  In 1770s, his piano sonatas began to require the performer to realize dynamic markings such as sforzando and crescendo, sudden accents, and other variations of touch that require a pianoforte. The authorized contemporary printed editions of the Sonatas written after 1780 give “fortepiano” or “pianoforte” as the first option, along with “clavicembalo” (usually meaning harpsichord) as an alternate instrument.

The C Major sonata Hob.XVI:48, known as Sonata No. 58, first appeared in a typeset edition by Breitkopf of Leipzig in 1779 (later, in 1787, Haydn, ever a businessman, offered the same sonata to the London publisher William Foster).  The two movement Sonata No. 58 seems to straddle the line between the earlier, harpsichord sonatas and later fortepiano sonatas.  The First Andante movement, with its recitativo, improvisational mood can be easily imagined performed on a harpsichord.  The Second movement, a Rondo, is a piece of extraordinary virtuosity, with great crescendos and dynamic range, clearly intended for a fortepiano.


DORMAN:                       Sonata No. 5

Prolific Israeli composer of orchestral works, concertos, chamber music and solo piano works, Avner Dorman “writes music of intricate craftsmanship and rigorous technique, expressed with a soulful and singular voice”. 
“… This piece, my fifth piano sonata, celebrates the high level of performance that competitors display and gives them the opportunity to showcase different aspects of their playing.  The sonata explores the hues of the modern piano which don't always feature in conventional repertoire, while including techniques particular to the piano, which are neither routine nor banal.

The sonata has two movements, sharing the same key, each exploring different elements of the piano's potential.  The opening movement, a fantasy, is a bit like an improvisation, with changes in rhythm, color, and shape.  The second is a joyful showcase of elated, boundless energy.  Many rhythms are inspired by West African music, and the colors of harmony and melody draw on other cultures. While written in traditional sonata form, this short virtuoso piece also allows pianists to express their own modern, global insights.    - Avner Dorman….”

MEDTNER:                     Select Fairy Tales

Nikolai Medtner may be the most significant composer-pianist you’ve never heard of. In the first half of the 20th century, he was known as the ‘Russian Brahms.’ He wrote primarily piano music, including three fine piano concertos that deserve to be heard. The solo keyboard works comprise of 14 sonatas and more than 100 character pieces with fanciful titles in the tradition of Schumann and Grieg.

Medtner was born in Russia to a Dannish father and a mother of Swedish/German descent.  A brilliant pianist, he instead chose a career of composition.   Like many Russian musicians, Medtner fled his homeland after the Revolution.  Both Berlin and Paris avant-garde scenes, his first stops, had little appeal for the traditionalist Medtner.  Eventually, he made his permanent home in London, where he continued to compose and perform insofar as his declining health permitted.

Medtner gave the title Skazka (Fairy Tale) to thirty-three of his piano pieces.  These are mercurial fantasies, deeply Russian narratives. They are representative examples that show Medtner’s indebtedness to Schumann, Brahms and the demonic spirit of Liszt by the pervasive, dazzling virtuosity. The writing is dense and chromatic, with complex cross-rhythms, syncopations, inner voices, and surprising turns in harmony.  Medtner sustained an extraordinary degree of invention, variety, craftsmanship, and sheer musical worth throughout the entire collection of Skazki.

The Op 51 set, gives its dedication to ‘Zolushka (Cinderella) and Ivan the Fool’.  The 2nd piece of the set (Cantabile, tranquillo) is a song of Cinderella.  Op 34 can be singled out for special acclaim as a character piece.  Medtner described Op 34 No 2 (Allegro e leggiero) to friends as ‘a tale told by a river bank’ (easily discernible in the rippling currents of the left hand), by quoting from Tyutchev’s mystical poem Peace (‘… what we once called ours is gone forever’), most certainly suggesting deeper thoughts.  Sunny moods prevail in the Op 26 set. The 2nd piece of the set (Molto vivace) unleashes a brief eruption of exuberance and laughter.  Op 20 No 2 (Campanella: Pesante, minaccioso), a doom-laden tale of pile-driving rhythms and relentless fatalism.  Medtner insists that it should be played absolutely without rubato and adds, in a footnote, that it should be regarded not as a tale about a bell but as one told by a bell, in whose chime ‘can be heard calamity and terror’.


SCRIABIN:                     Sonata No. 3 in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 23

Scriabin’s 3rd Piano Sonata was completed during the Summer of 1898.  Scriabin at this point of his life was at the cusp of a brilliant musical career as a composer, pianist and teacher.  In his personal life, everything looked up for him – he was married to a talented young pianist and their first daughter was just born.  And yet, Scriabin was a musical personality of many paradoxes: a man of an unusual small stature, delicate health and physique, he nevertheless saw himself as a Titan, a heaven-defying Prometheus destined to bring humanity to a new level of spiritual evolution.  His unique musical language straddles the line between Late Romanticism and 20th century Modernism – this, after all, was the time of Debussy, Richard Straus, Gustav Mahler, and Schoenberg.  
The 3rd Sonata is a large-scale four-movement work.  This period of Scriabin’s life saw the completion of his first two symphonies, so its not surprising that this sonata is symphonic in scale and in its polyphonic treatment of thematic material.  The mood of the First movement is heroically assertive; he overlays several themes in the development section, a technique he is to use consistently in his later works.  The Second movement is a hasty and uneasy march-like scherzo with a middle trio with exquisite little triplets.  The beginning of the slow Third movement evokes rare and yet central to Scriabin’s music: a self-absorbed bliss, like that of a small child.  After the middle section of the movement, with its chromatic wonderings, the first theme returns with Scriabin’s favorite scoring, surrounding the theme above and below by a halo of sound.  The Finale, the “uproar of elements” is create by a ceaseless left-hand figuration and equally restless chromaticism of the melodic lines. 
Our expectation of a happy ending is frustrated:  in Scriabin’s mind the end was to be a “victorious song” of the creative people, the march-like surge, and yet the soul plunges into an abyss and the song is reduced to a closing minor key.


About the Artist

Tomer Gewirtzman, piano

Hailed for his “…formidable virtuosity and stylistic sensitivity” (Washington Post), Israeli pianist Tomer Gewirtzman has recently won the First Prize in the 2015 Young Concert Artists International Auditions. He also won the Washington Performing Arts Prize, which will co-present his Kennedy Center debut, as well as five concert prizes: the Buffalo Music Society Prize, the Harriman-Jewell Series Prize (MO), the Sunday Musicale Prize (NJ), the Usedom Music Festival Prize (Germany), and the Vancouver Recital Society Prize. Tomer is also the first-prize winner in the 64th Wideman International Piano Competition that took place in December 2014 in Shreveport, LA. Tomer is also the most recent winner of the America - Israel Cultural Foundation's Aviv Competition that took place in December 2013, where he won both the piano prize named after Rafi Guralnik and the audience prize named after Meira Gera. In June 2014, he won the third prize in the inaugural Midwest Piano Competition in Iowa. In June 2010, he won the "Clairmont" competition in Israel; both first prize, and a special prize for a commissioned piece for the competition. Later that year, Tomer won the first prize in the "Piano Forever" competition in Ashdod, which gave him, in addition to the financial award, a full scholarship to attend master classes in the USA, and an opportunity to perform as soloist with the Ashdod Symphony Orchestra. Tomer has won first prizes in the Chopin competition for young pianists in Tel-Aviv, the "Rig'ey See" piano competition in Ashdod, the "Pnina Zaltzman Piano Competition for Young Pianists" in Kfar-Sava, and the "Tel-Hai International Piano Masterclasses" concerto competition. In addition, Tomer won first prize in the Aspen Music Festival concerto competition right after winning second prize in the International Russian Music Piano Competition in San Jose, where he was the youngest competitor in his category. He has received top prizes in other international competitions such as the International Keyboard Institute Festival piano competition in New York, Arte Con Anima piano competition in Greece, and the International Baltic Piano Competition in Poland.

Since 2006, Tomer has received a biennial excellence scholarship from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation and special scholarships by the Tzfunot Tarbut foundation, the Haifa Arts Foundation and the Buchmann – Heyman foundation. Tomer has participated and performed in prestigious international festivals, such as Yellowbarn, Perlman Music Program, Aspen Music Festival and School, "PianoFest" in the Hamptons, "PianoTexas" in Fort Worth, Summit Music Festival in New York, International Academy of Music in Toscana, "Musica Mundi" chamber music festival in Belgium, "Tel – Hai" International Master Classes in Sde - Boker, Israel, and the International Keyboard Institute Festival in New York. He has performed in master classes with Emanuel Ax, Yefim Bronfman, Menahem Pressler, Dmitri Bashkirov, Nikolai Petrov and Paul Badura Skoda and many other world-renowned pianists and pedagogues.

Tomer has performed in many recitals in Israel and abroad, some of which were broadcast on public radio. He made his London debut recital in London's "Steinway Hall," and his Paris debut recital in the Salle Cortot of the Ecole Normale. He was also invited to play in Nikolai Petrov's Kremlin Festival, where he played in various cities throughout Russia. His concerts as a soloist with orchestras in Israel include performances with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Israel Symphony Orchestra, Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the Israeli Chamber Orchestra, the New Haifa Symphony Orchestra, and the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music Symphony Orchestra. Performances in the U.S. include the Symphony Silicon Valley, and the Aspen Concert Orchestra. Tomer has also played a number of times under the baton of Zubin Mehta. Concerts this season include performances with the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra, the North-West Florida Symphony Orchestra and the South Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. Tomer will play recitals in New York, Illinois, Maryland and Luisiana, as well as in Israel.

Tomer is currently working toward the Master of Music degree at the Juilliard School in New York, as a student of Maestro Sergei Babayan. He is a proud recipient of the prestigious Kovner Fellowship award. Prior to Juilliard, He studied for one year at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He completed the Bachelor of Music degree with honors under the guidance of Prof. Arie Vardi at the Buchman-Mehta Academy of music in Tel-Aviv. Tomer started his musical education at the age of 8, with Ms. Raaya Shpol at the Rubin Conservatory in Haifa, and continued his piano studies with Prof. Vadim Monastirski from the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem.