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Nadav Hertzka, Piano


1. What was the first piece(s) you learned? Was it inevitable you would be a pianist as a consequence of your early tuition?

I’m not sure about ‘inevitable’, I cringe a little when people talk about how the piano chose them instead of the other way around. But it’s true that it was never a conscious decision, it just became obvious that this is something I would want to do for the rest of my life.

I honestly can’t remember the first pieces I’ve learned, but I do remember always wanting to play different ones!

2. Is your family musical?

My dad played the cello for several years when he was a boy, and my sister took piano lessons early on. That’s how I got into it - I was forced into attending her Solfege lessons since I was too young to be trusted with a key to our home. Soon enough I realised I have perfect pitch and started interfering with the lessons way too much, until I was allowed to join.

3. Which famous pianists do you admire?

As the years go by, I think I only admire the music itself. But of course I enjoy many people’s playing, I went through a “Horowitz-phase” and a “Gould-phase” like anyone else. Lately it’s been a lot of Brendel and Volodos.

4. Tell us about your days at the Tel-Aviv Rubin Academy? How was it like to study under Professor Arie Vardi?

It’s a bit awkward trying to put this to words, since he’s been such a huge figure in my life. We always joke about our first meeting, where I was about 25 minutes late, just couldn’t find the place. Not the ideal setting to play Appassionata for him for the first time, but he was incredibly nice about it. He really taught me how to listen, how to read a score. So many memorable lessons, moments. He was so inspiring and practical at the same time.

5. You have just completed your MA Degree with Mr. Christopher Elton at the Royal Academy of Music, London? How was it like to be instructed by this man?

Well, much like Vardi, it’s been constantly inspiring. There’s so much knowledge and experience that goes into it, but always so natural. He is also such a perceptive man, he reads through you within a phrase and there’s no place to hide. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these two great men are also two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. They have been role models for me as musicians and people. I hope I can keep playing for the both of them for many years to come.

6. What are your fondest musical memories, privately or performing?

One of my best memories is playing the Mozart “Coronation” concerto. It was one of those rare nights where everything just clicked. You feel like you can do no wrong and you’re completely ‘one’ with the instrument. It doesn’t happen very often, so you have to enjoy each one you get.

On a more personal level, The “Perlman Music Program” is the first thing that comes to mind. I spent three summers in Shelter Island, and “Toby’s Dream” (Toby -Itzhaks Perlman’s wife) has been just that to all of us, I think. PMP first came to Israel, and I joined them that same year in New York and later on in Shanghai. It was a very special group of people, some of the most talented teenagers in the world and we were all just friends. So many wonderful memories of Shelter Island with its beautiful sunsets, singing Faure Requiem with Mr. Perlman, reading Beethoven Violin Sonatas with Kristin Lee through the night, and even losing the Ping-Pong Final to Arnaud Sussmann (with both Mr. and Mrs. Perlman watching, I got a little too eager and gave it away).

7. You had your orchestral debut at age 14 with the Haifa Symphony Orchestra, can you tell me what piece you played and how this was received?

This was about a month after winning the Frank Peleg Competition and I played the Beethoven C Major concerto. I actually had my own Cadenza for it, but felt like I should play the Beethoven one. It was a great experience as I played the Mozart K.595 the following season.

8. You won the Rubin Academy Piano Prize at 17. Were you the youngest winner of that competition? What repertoire did you play?

I’m actually not sure about that, I heard Yefim Bronfman won it at 16. This was the piano competition of the Rubin Academy in Tel-Aviv, and I entered the Academy at 17 while still in high school. I played a Bach Toccata, Schubert Sonata, Liszt Mephisto Watlz and the Brahms D Minor Concerto. It definitely made me feel more at ease at the Academy, especially since I was the youngest Vardi student at the time.

9. You are a recipient of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation Scholarships. Tell us more about the foundation.

The AICF supports young Israeli musicians throughout their studies and I was very lucky to be a part of this great foundation. They hold auditions every other year, usually requiring a five-piece program.
After years of being supported through scholarships, I think it’s our responsibility to give back as much as we can.
They’re also planning some projects in London I believe, so I’m very excited about that.

10. How often and for how long do you practice?

My favourite question of course! I think the most important thing is to feel fresh, mentally and physically. Practicing is a grind, after all, and you can’t always expect to be inspired. Mixing it up with some sight-reading and chamber music seems to work for me. In recent years I find that the more responsibilities life throws at you, it’s a good idea to try and practice in one session, two at the most.

11. Do you or would you like to teach music?

Yes, I teach piano at Kings College, which is part of the University of London. I also teach private students at home, so that’s something I enjoy very much.

12. What inspires you?

It’s sort of difficult not to be inspired, living in London. So many great concerts, exhibitions, cultural events etc. Just last week, one of my friends sold a painting, and another one is starting her own fashion magazine. So it’s nice to be surrounded by such talented and ambitious people. I’m also inspired by the idea of inspiring others, helping others. I know Julia Hamos has a great project in the works, so I hope to be a part of that as well.

13. Tell us more how this album for “Skarbo” came about please?

It goes all the way back to my first performance in London in 2009. It was a concert for the ‘Liszt Society of London’ and we kept in touch since. They heard me in Wigmore Hall last May and then we decided to record in 2012. I have a very nice relationship with their team already, and complete trust in them professionally, so I am definitely looking forward to working together.

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