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LILYA ZILBERSTEIN

Zilberstein began to play the piano from the age of five and a year later commenced lessons with Ada Traub at the Gnessin School of Music in Moscow. At fourteen she graduated with distinction and continued her studies with Alexander Satz at the Gnessin Institute, graduating in 1988. By 1985 Zilberstein had won first prize at the Russian Federal Republics’ Competition and was a prizewinner at the Pan-Soviet Competition in Riga, but because the Gnessin Institute was geared to producing teachers rather than performers, she was unable to enter international piano competitions; that privilege was for the students at the Moscow Conservatory. However, when Zilberstein was permitted to compete, she won first prize at the Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition in Bolzano and that launched her career. She also won the audience prize at the Busoni Competition.

On her first extended tour of the West in 1988, Zilberstein played in Italy and subsequently in Germany, Austria, France and the United States. After her debut with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and Claudio Abbado, Zilberstein appeared in Japan and performed with many of the world’s great orchestras including the London Symphony, the Concertgebouw, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Dresden Staaskapelle and the Chicago Symphony. In 1990 Zilberstein settled in Hamburg with her husband and family.

Zilberstein has taken part in many festivals including Lucerne, Berlin, Schleswig-Holstein and Concertgebouw, and tours frequently throughout Europe, North America and Japan. At the 1992 Ravinia Festival she played Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major Op. 26 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and James Levine and more recently has been invited by Martha Argerich to perform at her ‘Martha Argerich Project’ at the Lugano Festival.

Zilberstein’s repertoire centres on the Romantics, and the Russians in particular: she performs all four of Rachmaninov’s piano concertos in a cycle, some Mozart concertos, those by Chopin and some by Prokofiev.

In 1989 Zilberstein became an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist, recording around a half-dozen solo discs and two of concertos. Her best solo disc was the first she made of Rachmaninov’s Préludes Op. 32 and Shostakovich’s Piano Sonata No. 1 Op. 12. In the Rachmaninov, Zilberstein has the poetry, style and musicality required to make these works come alive, and the rarely-heard Shostakovich work, influenced by Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 3, is impressively played. A disc of Brahms’s Variations on a theme by Paganini Op. 35 and some of the late piano pieces has impressive technique and tonal quality, but Mussorgky’s Pictures at an Exhibition receives a rather deliberate performance with a lack of characterisation. Other works on the same disc by Medtner and Taneyev are more persuasive, and it is good to hear the Prelude and Fugue in G sharp minor Op. 29 by Taneyev. Zilberstein appeared in Deutsche Grammophon’s complete Chopin Edition of 1999 playing some mazurkas, the Piano Sonata No. 1 Op. 4 and a few more of the less frequently heard works, but here, as in Debussy and Ravel, Zilberstein sounds less convincing. The live recording of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concertos Nos 2 and 3 with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and Claudio Abbado is beautifully recorded and played, yet the piano never seems to take wing, remaining earth-bound and rather sober for much of the time. Even though this is obviously a committed performance, Zilberstein is cautious in her use of rubato.

Recordings from the Lugano Festival have been issued by EMI, and Zilberstein can be heard in Brahms’s own transcription of his Piano Quintet in F minor for two pianos where she is partnered in a fine performance by Martha Argerich.

More recently Zilberstein has recorded for Hänssler Classics, who have issued performances of Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor Op. 15 and the Tragische Ouvertüre Op. 81 in piano duet version with Cord Garben. Also issued on the same label is a disc of works by Clementi.

Role: Classical Artist 
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