Gilbert Kalish studied piano with Isabelle Vengerova, Leonard Shure and Julius Hereford, and after gaining a Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia College he continued his studies at Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Kalish gave his New York recital debut at Carnegie Recital Hall playing Bach and Schoenberg, and made his European and London debut in the same year at the Wigmore Hall playing Beethoven, Schubert and Chopin. Kalish then made tours of America, Europe and Australia, and was a founder member of the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, a new music group that was active in the 1960s and 1970s. During this period he also became pianist of the Boston Symphony Chamber Players with whom he toured Europe, South America and Japan.
In 1987 Kalish, who has had a distinguished academic career as artist in residence and faculty member of many musical institutions in America, received an honorary doctorate from Swarthmore College. He is currently on the faculty of the State University of New York at Stony Brook as Leading Professor and Head of Performance Activities. He has also been a guest on the faculties of the Banff Center and the Steans Institute at Ravinia. In 2002 Kalish was awarded the Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award for lasting contributions to the field of chamber music through performances, teaching or the championing of the chamber music repertoire.
Kalish is frequently a guest with many renowned chamber ensembles in America including the Concord, Emerson and Juilliard Quartets and the New York Woodwind Quintet, and he has recently performed with the Talich Quartet. He has formed partnerships with cellists Timothy Eddy and Joel Krosnick and soprano Dawn Upshaw, while his most famous collaboration was his thirty-year partnership with mezzo-soprano Jan DeGaetani. Although his chamber music activities demand most of his performing time, Kalish also appears as soloist at many of the world’s music festivals including Mostly Mozart in New York, and the Brighton and Aldeburgh Festivals in England. He has had the honour of giving world premières of works by Elliot Carter, George Crumb, Charles Ives, Leon Kirchner, George Perle, Ralph Shapey, and David Diamond.
Columbia, Desto, Folkways, Acoustic Research, Bridge, and Nonesuch are among the many labels for which Kalish has made numerous recordings. The majority of these are of chamber music or as accompanist. However, he has recorded the complete piano sonatas of Haydn for Nonesuch on five LPs, and his recording of Ives’s ‘Concord’ Sonata made in 1976 for Nonesuch has become one of the salient recordings of this work along with those by John Kirkpatrick. During the 1970s Kalish made many recordings for Nonesuch of music by American composers including Elliot Carter, Aaron Copland, George Crumb, Stephen Foster, and Charles Ives as well as discs of Brahms, Debussy, Poulenc, Schoenberg, Schubert and Schumann. His championing of American composers has led to his name appearing on discs issued by Composers Recordings Inc. and New World. With Joel Krosnick, Kalish recorded Beethoven’s cello sonatas for Arabesque in 1995 and an excellent version of Ives’s Piano Trio with Yo-Yo Ma and Ronan Lefkowitz for Sony in 1992, a work he had previously recorded for Columbia with Paul Zukofsky and Robert Sylvester. With Jan DeGaetani he has recorded Schubert, Schumann and Wolf as well as Schoenberg’s Das Buch der hängenden Gärten Op. 15 and a classic disc of Ives songs for Nonesuch; and in 1982 the Bridge label issued a disc of nine Ives songs and George Crumb’s Apparition for soprano and amplified piano. Also for Nonesuch Kalish recorded George Crumb’s Music for a Summer Evening (Makrokosmos III) with James Freeman on a second amplified piano plus two percussionists.
A three-LP set appeared on the Desto label in 1976 entitled Music for a 20th Century Violinist: with Paul Zukofsky, Kalish plays works from three decades of the twentieth century, the 1940s to the 1960s. Along with works by John Cage, Roger Sessions, Milton Babbitt, George Crumb and Walter Piston are others by Harvey Sollberger, Michael Sahl, Peter Mennin and Henry Brandt. Another interesting compact disc is of works by John Harbison where Kalish accompanies soprano Dawn Upshaw in Simple Daylight, and plays the piano in Harbison’s Piano Quintet. With the Boston Chamber players Kalish made some recordings for Deutsche Grammophon including arrangements of Johann Strauss by Schoenberg. Kalish is likely to turn up on disc playing any composer, so it is no surprise to find him on an LP devoted to the woodwind music of Saint-Saëns, accompanying Samuel Baron, Joseph Rabbai, and Ronald Roseman.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — Jonathan Summers (A–Z of Pianists, Naxos 8.558107–10).
Role: Classical Artist