WQXR featured Valentines: Orli Shaham and David Robertson

Swooning Over Chopin: Orli Shaham and David Robertson

By Merrin Lazyan

This Valentine's Day we 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.

Did music play a role in your love story? If so, how?

Orli: Of course it did, are you kidding me? The gods at what is now Opus 3 Artists and the St. Louis Symphony put us together for a concert date. We had not met each other before that time, though I'd heard of him and he'd heard of me.

So one day just over 18 years ago, we met in the green room at Powell Symphony Hall, rehearsing the Chopin E-Minor Piano Concerto before going on stage with it. We had a great time working together and we both immediately wanted to have more opportunity to do so. Little did we know how it would develop.

What is a piece of classical music that is especially romantic to both of you, and why?

The Chopin E-Minor Piano Concerto, for the reasons above. But I'm going to also include another piece, which is the recorded music we played at our wedding, the Brahms Liebeslieder Waltzes.

What's a hobby you enjoy together that has nothing to do with music?

Reading is one of our hobbies. We love to be in the same room, reading different things at the same time. Another is hiking in the great outdoors. We love to go hiking with our twins, and maybe this summer they'll be ready to go camping.

How do you get through long periods of separation when you're both performing?

We have always found that the two-week mark is when everybody starts to lose their sanity. So we try really hard not to have too many periods past the two-week mark, and ideally not more than a few days. We plan out our schedule a year or two in advance, and we work hard to make sure that somebody is always home with the kids so that they don't have to be overnight without us. Unfortunately that means that we sometimes end up seeing less of each other.

What is your top tip for long-lasting love?

One of our wedding vows was something along the lines of, "Promise to resolve all problems by Tuesday." The idea behind it is, if something's bothering you, well, you've got to talk about it every day. So, every day is not feasible, but we do try to talk about it by Tuesday.