This week Andrew Rumsey got to catch up with pianist and educator, Arnan Wiesel. Distinguished performer and associate artist, Arnan will be featured in the upcoming Canberra International Music Festival in May (1st – 10th).
Arnan, you have had a very impressive performing (and teaching) career, what would you say would be your most memorable performance experience? Where were you and what were you playing?
It is difficult to pin point one performance. I would mention four performances that stand out in my memory.
The first would be my first recital with my father, cellist Uzi Wiesel. This was in Tel-Aviv and was the first of numerous performances around the world with him. I was 17 at the time and the preparation for this concert offered me a giant leap forward in my artistic development.
The 2nd performance would be with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in Israel playing Bartok concerto. This was my first time playing in a 1500 seat auditorium and with one of the best orchestras around. The experience I got from such a performance gave me a hugh inspiration for my future concerts.
Playing in Sydney in 1985 as part of the Sydney International competition with the ACO in the final stage was a concert that was left in my memory as a special event. Something about the performance was magical. It is amazing to keep meeting people who were present in this concert even 30 years past that still remember this occasion.
There were many other performances in Europe, USA and Asia, but the last one I would like to mention is the one held at the School of Music in Canberra to celebrate the achievement of staff and students before the school changed its character in 2014. An evening with an atmosphere way beyond music, with an enormous energy and emotion. A final chapter of a wonderful musical institution.
What was the music culture like in Israel, compared to Australia?
The musical culture in Israel. when I grew up there was quite different than the one I observed here in Australia. Music was much more ingrained in the social fabric of Israel as a result of the tradition that came from Europe. The critical audience and the very high level of student training as well as attitude towards musical studies created a excellent level of instrumental and artistic achievement. Israel is much closer geographically to the musical centres of Europe and even though Australia (especially in major centres) offers now much more international artists it is still a fair distance for the leading musicians of our time to visit us on a regular basis. The Israel philharmonic for instance used to attract yearly artists such as Barenboim, Stern, Mehta and many others. In Israel smaller towns had just as much musical activity as the main cities.
You have explored an incredibly diverse range of composers in your career, but who are the ones that you keep gravitating towards?
I was brought up with the german classical music . J.S.Bach, Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms. These remain good friends which will continue to accompany me on my musical journey.
I do however like to explore new music from all centuries. I would like to look further in the future at the music of Prokofieff, Ligetti and earlier music such as early 19th Century works written by various lesser known composers.
How do you feel the complete Beethoven Sonatas tie in with the theme of this year’s festival, ‘Music, Einstein and You’?
The complete Beethoven piano sonatas can compliment any festival theme, because they are so diverse and so strong in the musical statements they make. The musical material is so well crafted and perfected that it is a canon of works that will last forever as part of humanities creative highlights.
You will be performing 3 Sonatas in this festival, do you have a favourite and why?
The three sonatas they I will be performing at the CIMF are not considered the most popular of Beethoven’s sonatas. I would argue that they are no less great musical pieces than some of the more well-known sonatas.
The two sonatas Op. 14 and especially Op.14 no. 2 are gems as far as the youthful energy, their creative ideas and the humour young Beethoven incorporated in them.
In the Op. 28 sonata Beethoven explores remarkable orchestral sound colors in all 4 movements.
Do you have a particular opinion about what Beethoven has to offer an audience in 2015?
As I mentioned Beethoven like other greats (such as Shakespeare for instance) will last forever as part of the humanities corner stones. Perhaps ons can approach Beethoven in our times not from the large metropolis standpoint, but through aspects such as nature and ideals. These are not always obvious in our current lives. Beethoven is not relating to sport or to fast activities, but more to romantic feeling.
Does 2015 hold any new, exciting projects for you?
The last few years have been slightly quieter years as far as my professional activities. Following my departure as head of keyboard from the School of Music in Canberra at the end of 2013, I helped form the ACT Keyboard Association to help keyboard activities in the ACT in 2014. I hope to offer numerous exciting projects to audiences around Australia from 2016.
The Israeli born pianist Arnan Wiesel is a winner of national and international prizes including Israel’s highest prize for young musicians, the Francoix Shapira Prize. A finalist in the Sydney Piano Competition, his career as solo and chamber musician has taken him to Australia, USA, Europe, Asia, New Zealand and Israel. Concert appearances include concertos with the Stuttgart Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Hamburg Mozart Orchestra, Danska Sinfonietta and recitals in important music centres as the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Münchner Gasteig, Frankfurt Alte Oper, Zurich, Geneva, Budapest and Moscow as well as appearances at the Schleswig-Holstein Festival, Insel-Hombroich and Münchner-Klaviersommer Festivals in Germany and the Israel Festival. Since taking up residence in Australia, he has performed with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Australia Ensemble, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Canberra Symphony Orchestra, the Adelaide Festival, in numerous ABC Live concerts, the Hunter and Huntington festivals, Tyalgum Festival and in the Canberra Chamber Music Festival. He appeared in the NZ Piano festival in Wellington. From 2005 – 2010 he performed the complete J.S.Bach’s Keyboard works on the modern piano and on the Clavichord. Arnan has acted as Head of the Keyboard area at the ANU SoM from 2010 – 2012 and has been the artistic director of the Australian International Chopin Piano Competition held in 2011. He was the inaugural President of the newly formed ACT Keyboard Association.