The concert pianist who converses with her audience
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The concert pianist who converses with her audience

Orit Wolf craved a better connection with listeners, and introduced conversational performances, now in English too

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Even concert pianists get tired of applause.

Orit Wolf, an Israeli concert pianist with a PhD in Beethoven, felt something was missing after the 30 seconds of clapping she received following each performance.

“I felt a loneliness, an emptiness in a way, with a huge gap between the amount of preparation and stress, and the communication and reward with audiences,” said Wolf. “I realized I needed to break the rules and the paradigms. I didn’t want to be a silent artist on stage.”

Wolf created a concert series held around Israel and in London, offering performances with top musicians and international guest artists followed by conversations between the audiences and performers.

Now she’s doing the same for English-speaking audiences, with a five-part series beginning in October 2017 at the Weil Center in Kfar Shmaryahu.

The first presentation is entitled “From Broadway to Tel Aviv – The Musicals,” and will explore favorite Broadway show tunes, accompanied by soprano Claire Meghnagi and tenor Assaf Kacholi.

Other concerts in the series will touch on Chopin, Bossa Nova and several great encores of the cello.

“We try to convey something beyond the actual performance of great masterpieces,” said Wolf, who speaks English fluently. “We converse with the audience about the music and about making music, we talk about the successes and the failures in the performance, what was good and what wasn’t.”

It’s a provocative concept, but it works, said Wolf.

“We can say, ‘okay, this was good, and share why. We allow ourselves more humor, and tell the audience about the rehearsals and the arguments,” she said. “There are so many disagreements among musicians before you go on stage.”

The combination of performance and conversation offers a perspective that generally isn’t accessible to audiences.

“They can just stay home and watch YouTube and enjoy a great performance in their pajamas,” said Wolf. “People go out to communicate and have an experience, and this offers that to them.”

The Israeli series is held throughout the country, at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Ra’anana, Ashdod and Haifa, as well as in other locations.

The new English language program is being sponsored by Dame Shirley Porter, an arts benefactress who has been coming to Wolf’s lectures for years.

Like the Hebrew series, Wolf’s English series will combine different forms of art, including performances with poets, actors, dancers and experts in other fields, accompanied by improvised music.

The musical conversations are short, just 75 minutes in length.

“They’re brief and precise,” said Wolf. “We have to rehearse a lot, but it still leaves room for spontaneity. I’m not trying to be Wikipedia, it’s not a concert lecture, it’s really a concert conversation.”

The Orit Wolf concert series is being held once a month at the Weil Center in Kfar Shmaryahu, beginning in October 2017. Tickets can be purchased through the Orit Wolf website.

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