Intermezzo: The Santa Barbara Sessions TJN on Robert Silverman
On Tuesday evening, the last night of our recording effort for the second Stereophile production, Robert Silverman treated us, between takes, to a spontaneous outburst of Liszt's heroic B-minor sonata. No doubt inspired by the Reference Recordings Nojima disc we had heard during a visit to a local Santa Barbara high-end salon earlier that day, it was, nevertheless, another indication—if any was needed by this point—of his superb talent as a musician and performing artist. I have to admit, rather sheepishly, that I was unfamiliar with this gentleman's work prior to my visit to Santa Barbara.
No excuse for this, really, except perhaps that Silverman is best known in his native Canada, where he has performed with major orchestras from coast to coast. But he has also appeared, to outstanding reviews, with the Chicago Symphony, the Boston Pops, and in New York, Washington, London, Paris, Budapest, Hong Kong, Rio de Janeiro, and the Soviet Union. He has made over a dozen recordings, for Orion, Musica Viva, and Marquis. His impromptu bit of Liszt was no accident—one of his recordings, an album of Liszt's piano music, won the prestigious Grand Prix du Disque from the Liszt Society of Budapest, and resulted in an invitation to give an all-Liszt recital before that organization.
But his repertoire is hardly limited to Brahms and Liszt. It ranges from Bach and Mozart to Gershwin, New Age, and contemporary—including the first performance in Canada of George Crumb's Makrokosmos.
Although he gave his first recital at the age of five, and had his debut with the Montreal Symphony when he was 14, Robert Silverman began his college education as an engineering major, completing three years of study in that field. But the call of music was too strong; he completed his BA in the humanities, spent two years studying in Vienna, and completed his formal musical education at McGill University and the Eastman School of Music. He presently divides his time between teaching at the University of British Columbia and performing. He was also no stranger to Santa Barbara, having at one time spent a year on the faculty of the University of California campus there.
Martin Silver, the music librarian at UC Santa Barbara, had recommended to Kavi Alexander that he investigate recording Robert Silverman. Robert sent John Atkinson a cassette of him performing the Brahms F-minor sonata and Chopin Scherzo in B-flat minor in New York's Merkin Hall. JA was impressed, feeling not only that Robert was a "big" player but also one who could sustain a melodic line without the listener being continually aware of the piano being a percussive instrument. This ability—to make the piano do the impossible and "sing"—is something JA prizes highly in a musician. A couple of phone calls later, Robert accepted our invitation to record for Stereophile.—Thomas J. Norton