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Times of Israel Podcast

LISTEN: Pianist Orli Shaham riffs on recording improv master Mozart during COVID

An Israeli-American musician didn’t let a little thing like a world pandemic stop her when setting out to record Mozart’s Complete Piano Sonatas; Volume 1 hit shelves in October

This week The Times of Israel Podcast is bringing you a sneak peak at a new album, Mozart Complete Piano Sonatas Volume 1, recorded by Israeli-American performer Orli Shaham.

Shaham was born in Jerusalem to scientist parents, but following in the footsteps of her big brother, the violinist Gil Shaham, she quickly found her way to New York where she began training at the Juilliard School. Today she teaches the next generation of artists there, and performs internationally with major orchestras.

Shaham recorded Mozart’s Complete Piano Sonatas during the coronavirus crisis lockdown, and is in the process of releasing five discs on the new Canary Classics label. Vol. 1, a recording of Mozart’s three B-flat sonatas — Piano Sonata No. 3, K. 281, Piano Sonata No. 13, K. 333, and Piano Sonata No. 17, K. 570; all in B major — was released in October.

All 18 Mozart piano sonatas were recorded at the historic Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts. During the coronavirus crisis, the final recordings were accomplished through a creative high-tech assortment of apps and remote working environments.

Israeli-American pianist Orli Shaham recently recorded the entire corpus of Mozart piano sonatas, which will be released over five volumes on the Canary Classics label. Volume one recently dropped. (Karjaka Studios)

Independent label Canary Classics was founded by brother Gil and its name is a pun on the ubiquitous songbird and the Hebrew word for violinist, canar. Recording through the label has allowed Shaham to be more hands-on in the entire process, she says, from the look of the album to its liner notes. In the accompanying notes, Shaham puts her academic education to good use: she holds a BA in history from Columbia University and pursued an MA in musicology there.

We’ll hear excerpts of the new album before and throughout our conversation. Stay tuned at the end of our interview for the final movement of Sonata No. 17.

We’ll speak about Mozart the improvisor, being a musician during the coronavirus, and how to inspire the next generation to add classical music to their playlists.

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