Monday, January 9, 2012

A Questionnaire to Share

I was recently asked to be a featured artist in a publication. I needed to answer the following questions:

1) What or who inspired you to want to be an artist?
2) What was was your creative journey that has brought you to where you are in your career today?
3) What do you need as an artist today?
4) What creative project are you working on now?
5) Where do you see yourself and your career in 10 years?
6) What does it mean to you to be an Israeli artist?
7) What does it mean to you to have an organization like AICF available in the art world?

This is what came out:
1) Looking back, trying to re-live those early days when music became an integral part of my life, it was my late grandfather who first opened the door for me into the world of music. I was always drawn to interesting, multi-faceted people. My late grandfather was such a person – a painter, an accomplished violinist as well as a pianist, and a great actor who could impersonate Charlie Chaplin brilliantly. In other words, he was an artist in the true sense of the word. Every minute with him was filled with music and stories. Many of the stories were of survival during World War II. Throughout my life, the people that inspired me where the ones that were multi talented, larger than life, charismatic figures. Another such person was the composer / violinist / author and educator Ben Zion Orgad, to be further elaborated later on.

2) The creative journey that brought me to where I am right now involved on the one hand events, while on the other hand people that I met. When I was 17 years old I heard a concert in which Zubin Mehta conducted young soloists. I was so moved by the whole event. It energized me with tremendous ambition to be the next young soloist that the maestro will invite. That manifested itself in my commitment to practice harder every day. The following year I got my wish.
In the earlier question I mentioned Ben Zion Orgad – together with Leon Fleisher, both figures shaped my musical thinking enormously. When Ben Zion Orgad gave me his newest piano piece, a Toccata, asking me to add all the dynamic and interpretative markings, he elevated my level of awareness of what I do and why, to levels that I did not experience before. And when Leon Fleisher asked me to “direct his ear to what he should listen for”, before I played for him, whether it was Schubert or Chopin, he taught me to teach myself.

3) There are many things that I feel I need as an artist: My family and my friends above all – my support team. I also need time – time to explore, to ask questions, to succeed as well as to fail. I need peace and quiet that allows me to concentrate. I need “Godot” – something that constantly challenges and stimulates me to wake up the next day and run to the piano. I need to see a good play, a good movie, take a beautiful scenic road… and oh, I almost forgot, I also need a glass of red wine with a few lamb chops.

4) One of the creative projects that I am working on right now deals with creating a mega work out of two enigmatic monumental works. One of the most important, yet difficult to understand, solo pieces of the 19-century is the 24 preludes by Chopin. Even Schumann’s review of this work was quite elusive in its praise. I am in the process of inserting into these 24 jewels the 11 miniatures called ‘Musica Ricercata’ by the 20-century composer Gyorgy Ligeti. I strongly believe that music makes infinite number of connections, just like our brain. The juxtaposition of the raw passion of Chopin with the somewhat “scientific” passion of Ligeti fascinates me, and I hope will shed new light on the essence of these wonderful works. I am also working on another project - to record the two Mendelssohn concerti with the Israel Chamber Orchestra and the wonderful conductor Yoav Talmi.

5) During the past year two major trips - one to China and the other to Guatemala - shaken my musical journey to the core. In both cases children where involved. In China, witnessing in each concert I gave the attendance of hundreds of kids was absolutely incredible. In Guatemala I was introduced to the "Il Systema" program, which takes children from poor areas and give them a sense of purpose, a sense of identity and pride through a classical music program ages four till twenty. This daily program (five hours each day) includes singing, building instruments, playing them and ultimately performing in the children’s neighborhoods. I hope that in ten years my career will somehow be linked with these sorts of inspiring experiences, all of which are connected with education through music.

6) An Israeli artist is an ambassador! This is a great responsibility, which I embrace with all my heart. It is a responsibility to show the immense creative power that emerges and is cultivated in the land of Israel. Once, following a concert with the Rhode Island Philharmonic orchestra I was asked to shed light on the possible reasons that despite constant security issues and existential threats Israel is still able to produce so many wonderful artists. My answer was that perhaps this is our way to bring sanity and hope to an otherwise a very sad situation. Maybe it is a retreat. We need that and you need that. Together, with the help of Beethoven and Brahms we will succeed.

7) To have the America Israel Cultural Foundation in the art world means first and foremost to have a family – one that gives you the love and support you need as well as the faith that you can fulfill your potential. The AICF is also a hub for ideas to explore, for friendships to make and for opportunities, which you are given. It is also a place with experience that will always be happy to share an advice. Combining all that together for over seventy years, they have had a central role in the development of some of today’s most beloved and successful artists. I have the privilege to say that I belong to this family.

Alon Goldstein