by Anthony Kershaw
Saturday, May 14, 2011, Guelph, ON — We are very lucky in Southern Ontario to have Vancouver based pianist, Robert Silverman continue his live performances of Beethoven Sonatas. Silverman has just completed the recording of his second set of the 32 Beethoven Sonatas. Audiophilia reviewed his first set very favourably. Most pianists never get the opportunity to record the 32 sonatas once. That Silverman has the opportunity to record them again is testament to his brilliant pianism and his life long fascination with the interpretation of these masterpieces.
Over the years, Silverman has given complete cycles of the 32 in Seattle, Vancouver, San Jose, Toronto, and many other cities. If he comes to yours, grab a ticket and enjoy a style of pianism that is rare these days.
Silverman has a polished technique, but it is always at the service of the music. What I admire most, though, is the tone he produces and the balance of his chording. He is also intensely musical. It’s a good thing that recording companies recognize this, too. Twice!
On this program for the Guelph MusicFest Beethoven Festival (another concert tonight, including the Hammerklavier — still time to get a ticket or just show up and buy one at the door), we heard the Pathetique, Pastorale and Waldstein Sonatas along with the quirky but brilliant Sonata No. 22.
At once, the famous Silverman tone rang out into the intimate hall from the thunderous chords of the opening of the Pathetique. Phrasing was exquisite and all the inner lines of Beethoven’s incredibly complex counterpoint were heard easily. He must be a recording engineer’s dream. The piano, even at its very best is difficult to record. In Guelph (a small university town 30 miles west of Toronto), the hall’s acoustic was tested by the sheer volume of sound Silverman produced. I don’t think the Yamaha piano was enjoying itself too much, either. Silverman is a Steinway artist and I felt this particular Yamaha was stretched to its limit. The sound, however, was glorious.
Much has been written about the qualities of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, but hearing them live offers special insights when played like this. Silverman built each movement to satisfying conclusions. As such, each Sonata sounded like a journey. I mentioned his superb chording and balance and his brilliance in giving inner lines equal importance, but little accents here, slight rubatos there made for wonderful, interesting listening.
There were a few criticisms that I would lay at the feet of the instrument and one or two at the master. A blurred run or two, some pedal inconsistencies, and a little rhythmic variance in the Scherzo of the Pastorale (Bruckner must have loved this work). But these are infinitesimal compared to the musical delights Silverman offered his audience. Sitting in front of me, one Guelphian turned to his partner and mouthed ‘Wow’ after the first movement of the Waldstein. Silently, I concurred (the Waldstein was particularly brilliant).
Silverman was to born to Beethoven. He’s lived the music and loved it. It shows in his performances. If you live in the vicinity (Toronto to London) I would encourage you to drive to Guelph tonight and hear a master at work.
Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13 “Pathétique”
Sonata No. 15 in D Major, Op. 28 “Pastorale”
Sonata No. 22 in F Major, Op. 54
Sonata No. 21 in C Major, Op. 53 “Waldstein”