On Saturday, the San Luis Obispo Symphony will welcome the return of Israeli pianist Rina Doshitsky, who will be the featured soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23. The orchestra will also perform Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll” and the “Italian” symphony of Mendelssohn. However, the soloist is the reason you need to go.
Doshitsky is an extremely musical pianist whose fluid, rounded touch and sensitivity to nuance reminds this listener of Michiko Uchida or Dame Myra Hess. For evidence, go to YouTube and find her performance of Franck’s Sonata for Violin and Piano. The piece gives equal weight to both instruments, and despite Henry Gronnier’s gorgeous violin playing, the piano gives the music tragic weight and hard-earned hope.
Doshitsky’s gifts are making her a busy woman. She teaches privately and at the Colburn School in Los Angeles, plays chamber music in collaboration with Gronnier and the Rossetti String Quartet, and travels widely. Reached by telephone at her home in Hollywood, the pianist proved an urbane conversationalist, expressing passionate commitment to music and life.
“In my whole life, I had only two teachers: Ilona Vinzse (in Israel) from age 6 to 16, then Russell Sherman (at the New England Conservatory), who completely changed my whole approach to music. You must practice constantly because the body changes and your understanding of music changes as you live your life.”
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“I never had any problem with Wagner,” Doshitsky said regarding the concert. “I know some Israelis do, but I feel that music is music. The Mozart is a new piece for me to play. It’s a great work of art and a great opportunity to be humbled by Mozart’s genius.
“I’m grateful to Mike (Nowak) for asking me back to San Luis Obispo, where the air is so fresh! The orchestra seems to have a healthy, fresh air in its music. Some professional orchestras lack that,” she said. “I like very much the casual-dress rehearsals and the way Mike can talk to an audience. Sometimes people feel that classical music is somehow too ‘proper’ for them, that they need some kind of background before they can understand it. All you have to do is open your emotions to it! You don’t have to worry about understanding or analyzing it. It’s not mothball music — it’s universal, it’s evergreen!”
Doshitsky’s internationalist perspective has its price.
“I don’t do well with jet lag,” she said. “(French piano master) Jean-Yves Thibaudet travels more than I do, and he told me he always flies first class, so he can sleep. Oh, I understand! And he’s taller than I am — I’m a small person.
“But, you know, I saw Miles Davis once, in Europe. He was such a small man, but he filled a huge concert hall with just his presence. The atmosphere around him! I think he said two-and-a-half words.”