Visiting pianist digs deep into profession

URBANA — Touring with the Haifa Symphony Orchestra of Israel on its first U.S. tour has been a "fantastic experience" for pianist Roman Rabinovich — even though he has a "lot of repertoire to hold" in his hands.

The pianist has learned four concertos for the 27-city tour that includes a stop Saturday evening at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

It will be his first performance at the University of Illinois campus venue, but Rabinovich will feel comfortable on the Foellinger Great Hall stage with the orchestra.

"I've played regularly with the Haifa Symphony since I was 10 or 11 years old," he said. "We have a very good rapport and working relationship, so it's fun."

At Krannert, Rabinovich will perform Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1. In recent years he's also performed the music of Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Mozart and Beethoven.

"I love the music, playing," he said. "It's such incredible music — it's hard not to be moved by it. That's what I love. To be in it, to converse with those guys. Every day you go deeper into the music. It's a privilege."

The 28-year-old pianist also is a visual artist — you can see his art at romanrabinovich.net. He sometimes shows his artwork at venues where he performs.

He creates some of his paintings virtually, using Brushes software and an iPhone or iPad. He also paints on canvas with oil and acrylic.

He likes music and visual art equally.

"They complement each other," he said.

Rabinovich, who was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, began playing piano at age 6, studying with his mother. Both of his parents are professional piano teachers.

He insists he was not a child prodigy even though he was 10 when he made his Israel Philharmonic debut, with Zubin Mehta conducting.

He and his parents had moved to Israel when Roman was 9. His parents continue to live there; their son at 17 moved to the United States.

He first studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. After five years there he went to New York to obtain a master's degree at Juilliard. He continues to live in that city.

Rabinovich has performed throughout the United States, Europe and Israel, at major venues such as Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall in London and St. Petersburg's Glazunov Hall.

Through the years, he's won numerous awards for what one critic described as his "mature and self-assured playing (that) belies his chronological age."

His most significant award? The top prize as well as four others at the 12th Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in 2008 in Israel.

"First of all, he's one of my pianistic idols and to have a prize that carries his name is an honor," Rabinovich said. "Also it's a big competition that brought me important engagements and opportunities, so I'm grateful."

Bringing him even more attention lately is his debut recording, "Ballets Russes," released in early 2013 by Orchid Classics.

It features Rabinovich's arrangement of Ravel's "Daphnis and Chloe." On it he also performs Igor Stravinsky's "Petrushka" and Sergei Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet." All are piano solos.

For that CD, the Classical Recording Foundation gave Rabinovich its Artist of the Year award. BBC Music Magazine gave it four stars.

"This is clearly a labour of love," a BBC Music critic wrote. "The enthusiasm of his joyful playing is infectious — the absence is barely registered of the rich orchestral fabric in which these ballets are usually clothed."

If you go

What: Haifa Symphony Orchestra of Israel, conducted by principal guest conductor Boguslaw Dawidow, with Roman Rabinovich (right) on piano

Program: Carl Maria von Weber's Overture to Euryanthe; Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23; Antonn Dvork's Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95, "From the New World"

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Foellinger Great Hall, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Goodwin Ave., U

Tickets: $51 for adults; $46, senior citizens; $15, non-University of Illinois students; $10, UI students and youths high school age and younger; choral balcony, $15 for adults and $10 for UI students and youths

Information: 333-6280; krannertcenter.com

Topics (1):Music

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