Orli Shaham

Pianist Orli Shaham Premieres David Robertson’s “A Goldberg Conjecture”

On Sunday, Feb. 24, pianist and host of Pacific Symphony’s Café Ludwig, Orli Shaham performs the world premiere of David Robertson’s “A Goldberg Conjecture.” This new version of Bach’s Goldberg Variations re-imagines this famous solo harpsichord work for piano and string quartet.

The pianist Orli Shaham, curator and host of the popular chamber music series in Costa Mesa, said she was looking for a different kind of entry point into this seminal work by J.S. Bach. “It’s such an incredible piece,” she said. “Every pianist wants to perform it. And, pretty much every pianist has performed it.”

Shaham felt that the combination of piano and string quartet was one of maximum versatility, and so she turned to David Robertson to create this new adaptation for her and selected members of the string section of Pacific Symphony. Why him? While Mr. Robertson is internationally known as a conductor, he has long had an interest in writing music – even before he triple-majored in composition, conducting and French horn at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Over the past few years, he has created a number of transcriptions for the interactive concert series for children, Orli Shaham’s “Bach Yard” (formerly “Baby Got Bach”).

“A Goldberg Conjecture” is beyond a mere transcription of Bach’s music, says Robertson. “It is actually a hybrid form. There are places where I allow Bach to be just him, and then there are moments where I really get in there and mess things up. It’s an enlargement of elements that I feel are fascinating within the piece.” Robertson’s title is a play on words of the “Goldbach Conjecture,” an 18th century mathematical treatise.

Orli Shaham is delighted with the way David Robertson takes advantage of the modern keyboard and its reach in this music. “He’s taken into account how different sounds and timbres affect each other. In some cases, he’s put variations on top of one another to be played simultaneously. He has created a fascinating sound world employing various string techniques in combination with the piano.”

The premiere on February 24 includes just half of the variations from Bach’s original music. Robertson is still working on his ‘conjecture’ of the entire Goldberg Variations, so Café Ludwig audiences have something to look forward to.

Performance Details
Sunday, February 24 at 3:00 p.m.
Pacific Symphony’s Cafe Ludwig
Samueli Theater at Segerstrom Center for the Arts

Orli Shaham, piano and host
Dennis Kim, violin
Bridget Dolkas, violin
Meredith Crawford, viola
Timothy Landauer, cello

PERLE: Classic Suite, Op. 3
BACH/MOZART: Fugues transcribed for String Quartet from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2, K. 405
BACH-LISZT: Prelude and Fugue in A minor, originally for organ, BWV 543
J.S. BACH /D.E. ROBERTSON: “A Goldberg Conjecture” (World Premiere)

Orli Shaham featured on KUSC Arts Alive

Listen to Orli Shaham's interview at this link.

Picture this: you’re driving down the 5 Freeway in the Central Valley. All of a sudden, in your rear view mirror you see two 30-foot stretch limos. As they pull up beside you, you notice that these limos aren’t your average everyday limos. They are, in fact, the world’s longest Steinway grand pianos, traveling at 90 miles-per-hour on the freeway.

That scene has never actually happened, but it was the inspiration for a piece of music by composer John Adams. The piano/limousine hybrids appeared in a dream that Adams had years ago and that dream inspired his Grand Pianola Music, a piece Adams wrote in 1982 and one that he says, “seems to have something to offend everybody.” There’s all sorts of noisemakers in the percussion section, three female voice parts, and the two piano soloists often play their parts just slightly out of synch with one another.

One of the soloists is Orli Shaham. She tells me she’s a big fan of the music of John Adams.

“I fell in love with the music of John Adams when I first heard his Century Rolls piano concerto. I had heard other pieces of his that I had liked quite a bit, but maybe because it was for piano, it suddenly spoke to a part of me that was much stronger. Since then, I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting him many times. We’ve become quite good friends. I’ve worked with him as a conductor and also recorded some of his music. That close collaboration you have with a composer when you are recording his or her music is very personal and intimate in that way.”

Shaham tells me she has performed Adams’ Grand Pianola Music with Adams and pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin, as she will this weekend with the LA Phil.

“Reliving an older piece of [Adams’] with him as a collaborator and seeing him, through the rehearsal process, figure out the sounds in the way that he intended them, I mean, this is the dream. We all want to know exactly what did the composer intend here? And here’s your chance: the composer is right there five feet away from you! You can know exactly what the composer intended. I find it so creatively satisfying to work with a composer of his intellect and just creative energy.”

Orli Shaham gives "commanding, powerful performance" with Milwaukee Symphony

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Elaine Schmidt, Special to the Journal Sentinel

Big sounds, musical depth and standing ovations rang out in Uihlein Hall Saturday night during Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s program of music by Bartok, Tchaikovsky and Still.

Playing under the baton of guest conductor Joshua Weilerstein and joined by pianist Orli Shaham, the orchestra presented Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 and William Grant Still's “Poem for Orchestra.”

Shaham gave a commanding, powerful performance of the Bartok concerto, playing with a big, warm sound that was full of sometimes-bold and sometimes-subtle shifts in timbre and color.

Her performance was about more than just power and sound. Shaham brought emotional depth to the piece, from soaring first-movement statements and glowing energy in the final movement, to exquisitely voiced and shaped phrases in a deeply expressive second movement.

Weilerstein and the orchestra responded to her expressive, sonically rich interpretation as though engaging in a heartfelt conversation. Frequently looking over his shoulder at Shaham’s hands, Weilerstein created a seamless performance that brought the audience to its feet.

The themes of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 (“Pathetique”) may be etched in the minds of music lovers, but somehow that familiarity makes hearing the piece in a live performance something to be anticipated rather than taken for granted.

From heavy sighs in the strings, delivered in the thick, plaintive sounds that are part of Tchaikovsky’s musical signature, to strong, rousing brass lines, fluid solos from various instruments and audience-enveloping full-orchestra sounds, this was an engaging, exciting performance.

Weilerstein and the orchestra played with precision and superb communication, both between podium and players and between individuals and sections.

They brought elegance and grace to Tchaikovsky’s long, achingly beautiful phrases, crackling energy built of taut playing and brisk tempos to more strident, martial sections and artful, soulful expression to solo passages.

The evening ended with a standing, cheering ovation.

The evening opened with a riveting performance of William Grant Still’s 1944 “Poem for Orchestra.” Weilerstein and the Milwaukee Symphony gave a taut, well-balanced performance of the expressive, cinematic piece.

Baby Got Bach engages executive consulting services

Baby Got Bach engages executive consulting services

Baby Got Bach Artistic Director Orli Shaham and Executive Director Gail Wein are pleased to announce the engagement of Gene Sobczak and PROTEA Success Navigation in the advancement and continuing development of the organization.

WQXR: Roads Not Taken

WQXR: Roads Not Taken

From a very young age, pianists invest themselves fully in practice and performance. Their commitment is so deep and their talent so inspiring that it’s difficult to imagine them doing anything else.

WQXR: 12 Pianists Chose the Piece of a Lifetime

WQXR: 12 Pianists Chose the Piece of a Lifetime

But what if this impossible decision was made more impossible still? What if today’s great pianists could play one piece — and one piece only — for the rest of their lives? What would they choose, and why? Here’s what they told us.

Bangor Daily News review: Orli Shaham with Bangor Symphony

Bangor Daily News review: Orli Shaham with Bangor Symphony

Concert pianist Orli Shaham played Sunday as if Bela Bartok had written the Piano Concerto No. 3 in E major for her instead of his wife. Shaham, renowned on four continents for her technique, passionately and exuberantly embraced the complex composition for the Bangor Symphony Orchestra’s Winter Dreams concert.

The Ellsworth American review: Orli Shaham with Bangor Symphony

The Ellsworth American review: Orli Shaham with Bangor Symphony

[Bartok's Third Piano Concerto] was sensitively performed by Orli Shaham with poetic grace or rhythmic forcefulness, as the music demanded. The performance displayed perfect rapport between soloist and orchestra, bringing out the exceptional lyricism of the first two movements and the dynamic intensity of the finale.

Bangor Symphony Orchestra Interview with Orli Shaham

Bangor Symphony Orchestra Interview with Orli Shaham

On Sunday, February 25th, pianist Orli Shaham will join the Bangor Symphony Orchestra to perform Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3 at the Collins Center for the Arts. The program will also feature Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1 and Smetana’s Overture to The Bartered Bride. Ms. Shaham is an accomplished artist, with the New York Times calling her a “brilliant pianist,” and in anticipation of Sunday’s performance, we spoke with her about what audiences can expect.

WQXR featured Valentines: Orli Shaham and David Robertson

WQXR featured Valentines: Orli Shaham and David Robertson

This Valentine's Day WQXR asked pianist Orli Shaham and conductor David Robertson about the joys and challenges of sharing their profession and their life — plus, top tips for long-lasting love.

Orli Shaham and the Orlando Phil search for the joy of communion in Bernstein's 'Age of Anxiety'

Orli Shaham and the Orlando Phil search for the joy of communion in Bernstein's 'Age of Anxiety'

"We all feel we have something failing us in humanity, but at the same time we experience joy and connection with other human beings," says pianist Orli Shaham. "In this way the piece is timeless."

Orli Shaham artist insights: Bernstein Symphony No.2 "Age of Anxiety"

Orli Shaham artist insights: Bernstein Symphony No.2 "Age of Anxiety"

Bernstein's Age of Anxiety is a symphony, but it is also a piano concerto, which makes it quite interesting for me as the soloist.

KRCB reviews Orli Shaham's Mozart No. 21

KRCB reviews Orli Shaham's Mozart No. 21

Her reputation as a Mozart specialist was on display as her crystaline and lucid touch drew a very Classical sound from the modern concert grand onstage. Mozart requires enormous precision, but that detailed playing shouldn't be at the expense of warmth. Shaham has all those bases covered and earned an enthusiastic standing ovation from the crowd.

KDFC interviews Orli Shaham: Sparkling Mozart in Santa Rosa

KDFC interviews Orli Shaham: Sparkling Mozart in Santa Rosa

"There’s something about Mozart that’s really formational and formative. The music is so cleanly written that all the basic elements that you need to understand for anything else are already in his notes.”

Orli Shaham on Café Ludwig's "All-American" program

Orli Shaham on Café Ludwig's "All-American" program

On February 11, 2018 the Pacific Symphony’s “Café Ludwig” concert series commemorates the centennial of Leonard Bernstein and Steve Reich’s 80th birthday. Pianist Orli Shaham has been curator of the “Café Ludwig” series since 2007, and performs on each program. She shares her thoughts about this all-American program:

Orli Shaham performs on Bruce Adolphe's "Piano Puzzlers"

Orli Shaham performs on Bruce Adolphe's "Piano Puzzlers"

Orli Shaham performs on Bruce Adolphe's "Piano Puzzlers"

Composition choices give entire orchestra chance to shine

Composition choices give entire orchestra chance to shine

Speaking of sparkles, Rachmaninoff can pack more notes into a measure with the best of them, and they poured out of the piano in shimmering cascades, all of which were negotiated without a hitch. Hands crossing over each other always came down in the correct spot; loud passages were not attacked so much as leaned into with solid control; all the melodies, especially the famous 18th variation, had a natural flow and sensitive rubato.

SYMPHONY NOTES, OCTOBER 20 AND 21, 2017: GETTING VERY NEAR THE END

SYMPHONY NOTES, OCTOBER 20 AND 21, 2017: GETTING VERY NEAR THE END

Ms. Shaham will play Rachmaninoff's bravura Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini in a program that also includes Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet and Mnemosyne's Pool, a 2015 orchestral work by Steven Mackey.

WQXR's Expert Guide features Orli Shaham

WQXR's Expert Guide features Orli Shaham

WQXR asked leading musicians, music writers, and music lovers for their top picks for the upcoming fall season, and here's what Orli recommends.

Events for Children in NYC This Week

Events for Children in NYC This Week

BABY GOT BACH at the 92nd Street Y (April 8, 10 a.m.).