There is darkness, and then the evocative, abstract sound of a narrative piano and cello piece setting the tone and interacting with the screen’s wide-angle focus on New York City by night. The camera zooms in on a young painter, wrestling with artistic perfection in differently crafted self-portraits. Reality, vision, and self-doubt infuse the main character’s struggle in the short film, presenting pianist and painter Roman Rabinovich haunted by his art.
While the film, called “Portrait,” depicts a somewhat satirical combination of chaos, anxiety, and despair within the creative artistic process, its protagonist, Roman Rabinovich, seems to come out of these battles a champion of artistic catharsis in his real life.
Yet the Israeli pianist (born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan), winner of the 2008 Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition, is no stranger to the occasionally torturous journey towards perfect artistic expression. Having made his debut with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra under Zubin Mehta at age 10, and after studious years of learning from his many teachers including Arieh Vardi at the Rubin Academy of Music in Tel Aviv, Seymour Lipkin at the Curtis Institute of Music, and Robert McDonald at the Juilliard School, Rabinovich says that he continues to learn. “Many things inspire me: firstly, the music of great composers. It is such a privilege to be in direct contact with the composers through their work. The more you learn about their music, the more real the composers become as people. And then of course creative musicians I play with, inspire me. Sometimes it’s a beautiful piano, or a particular hall and the energy that transcends from the audience. But inspiration is a mysterious and transient thing. A good performance is based on meticulous preparation, hard work and austere discipline,” he says.
In his effort towards the ephemeral goal of excellence and exactitude, Rabinovich took a recent opportunity to meet András Schiff, whose mastery, “perfect balance of mind, hands and heart,” as Rabinovich describes it, he had always admired. He played for his icon at Schiff’s recent Carnegie Hall master classes, titled Bach and Beyond: “It was a pivotal point for me,” says Rabinovich. “Meeting with this great artist brought a new direction in my own development, and since then, I was privileged to continue working with him in Europe, enjoying his invaluable advice and his profound knowledge of music and art in general.”
Endorsed by András Schiff, one of the foremost pianists of our time, as one of three performers chosen to present the new generation of artistic talent, Roman will perform in Schiff’s newly established Berlin- and New York-based András Schiff Selects: Young Pianists series in its opening 2014/15 season. A program with works by Bach, Brahms, Bartók, and Smetana will give Rabinovich the opportunity to show his sensitivity for a wide range of pianistic repertoire, performed with his own, poignant personality, which San Francisco’s Classical Voice observed as “mature and self-assured playing, belying his chronological age.” Mr. Schiff himself spoke about his choice: “Roman is a very talented, young pianist, highly intelligent, quick-minded and genuinely original. He deserves to be heard and I hope to be able to help him.” The other two pianists presented in the series are Kuok-Wai Lio, Roman’s fellow Curtis graduate who recently stepped in replacing the legendary Radu Lupo at a Town Hall recital, and 2008 Gilmore Artist Award-winner Adam Golka.
Roman’s March 2013 recording titled Ballets Russes on the Orchid Classic label, for which he received the Classical Recording Foundation’s Artist of the Year Award, showcases the pianist’s musical gift for refined, in-depth performance, and his imaginative arrangements of works formerly not conceived for solo piano. Prokoviev’s Romeo and Juilliet, Ravel/Rabinovich’s Daphnis and Chloe, as well as Stravinsky’s Petrushka, had captured his imagination for quite a while, and the arc connecting the program was their close ties to the Ballets Russes: “Albeit in slightly different times, and marked by their aesthetic differences, they were all inspired by the energy and charm of one man – Sergei Diaghilev, a force of nature,” Rabinovich explains. “They belong to the era of the creator of the Ballets Russes, which had a profound influence on the artistic trends of the next generation, fusing avant-garde music, dance and art, styled in a fresh and innovative way.”
sketch for Ballet Russes – Petrushka and ballerina, by Roman Rabinovich