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Tribute to Robert Silverman: The way forward

Robert Silverman Solo Piano Recital Series, 2003

V6T Community News

by David Lemon

Pianist Robert Silverman has signaled the end of a thirty-year tenure as a professor at the School of Music at UBC with a challenging three concert series at the Chan Sun Concert Hall.

The final recital of this vigorous master, of music by Rameau, Schubert, Brahms and Scriabin takes place on May 11.

But this is no farewell concert.

On the evidence of the two previous concerts in the series, one of which has already been issued on CD, it points the way forward to more learning, more insights and more revelation.

Even so, this is a good time to reflect on Robert Silverman’s career so far and to pay tribute to his services to the School of Music.

Robert Silverman is widely recognized in the musical world for his brilliant musical imagination and superb technique.

He’s played solo recitals internationally, including music of Rachmaninov in Russia.

There is a great photo of Silverman playing Liszt in Budapest under the watchful bronze eye of the composer himself whose bust stands centre-stage.

Silverman’s recording of Liszt’s music won the Grand Prize from the Liszt Society of Budapest.

Silverman has also performed concerts with orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony and the BBC Symphony as well as with every major orchestra in Canada.

What’s more, he is an extremely communicative and witty speaker and writer on music. As his friends know he has an exhilarating and generously shared appetite for conversation, wine and movies, all happily yeasted with humour.

His enthusiasm for recording, and his series of ever more sophisticated computers, has yielded a fine discography of twenty-five albums on several labels, including a set of all thirty-two Piano Sonatas of Beethoven, an MP3 download site, an entertaining website and vigorous correspondence with friends and newspapers.

He has done much, particularly during his time as head of the School of Music, to articulate support of the School by the community.

A few years ago, at one of a series of fund raising events at the home of then U.S. Consul Michael Gallagher, Silverman was challenged on the spot to play Richard Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto. Notwithstanding having learned the floridly romantic piece for a performance some forty years earlier and given none since, its cascades of notes poured from Silverman’s fingers for a delighted and appropriately grateful guest.

Robert Silverman enjoys watching the careers of former students, several of whom have become close friends, and he can now savour the freedom from schedules that full-time teaching demands.

He is enjoying the process of helping to choose a successor, and he will continue to teach.

Most of all he continues the work of a mature artist, and since a good deal of the result of that work will be undertaken in Vancouver we’ll get to enjoy the results.


Pianist Sees Rhythm of Life Unchanged by Retirement

Robert Silverman does not think the rhythm of his life will change much when he retires in a month or two after 30 years as a professor of music at the University of British Columbia.

“I shall still do some teaching; I shall play concerts; I shall remain close to the university school of music,” he says.

“I shall not be going off to some foreign land to retire in a quiet villa and do goodness knows what.”

Professor Silverman has enjoyed too much of a blissful career as popular teacher and internationally-known classical pianist for him to suddenly – at the age of retirement – want to banish it in favor of something else.

He will, however, enjoy parting company with one aspect of his past thirty years at UBC during which he was – for five years – head of the school.

“The paperwork…” he says with a noticeable sense of relief. ”There is a lot of paperwork to be done in the teaching business and in the school administration business. I shall not miss the paperwork.”

So, the hands that move so magnificently across the piano keyboard will hardly ever again be kept constrained by the rigors of bureaucracy.

Born in Montreal, Professor Silverman said he moved west when the opportunity arose to escape both the mood of hostility there between English and French populations, the so-called ‘Two Solitudes’, and the difficulty Jewish performers such as himself have making progress “in the artistic community there”.

Asked what he might have become had he remained in Montreal, Professor Silverman said, ”It is so inconceivable I would have remained in Montreal, I cannot imagine.”

Married to Ellen Nivert, also a Pianist, Professor Silverman is intensely proud of his tenure as a teacher, and refers generously to his good and not-as-good students.

”Two of my students (Kunal Mooxjani and Lucas Wong) won the CBC Debut competition this year; another one (Roy Tan) recently played the Stravinsky concerto at the Chan; and Lucas is about to perform the Tchaikovsky 1st Piano Concerto with our orchestra there in April.

“My most recent Doctoral graduate, Janina Kuzmas, who won the Governor General’s Gold medal at last spring’s convocation, recently was appointed to a tenure track position at the University of Regina”

Professor Silverman is also proud of his five-year tenure as top administrator at the school of music. The beautiful Chan Center was built in this time, and Professor Silverman was very much concerned with such parts of interior construction that contribute to its acoustical qualities.

On May 11, Professor Silverman will play a concert at the Chan that will bring to a close his career as UBC professor (but not as a recording artist).

This concert will also bring to a close the series of three concerts that had been part of his final year. As for the past year,” it has gone faster than any previously.

“I can’t believe only a couple more weeks remain until the end of my last year teaching classes. “It’s been a great year. As for the current trio of concerts, “I was very pleased with the 1st two concerts. It’s not often that recordings of live recitals confirm everyone’s original thoughts about its quality, but the recently-released CD of the first concert is one of the best I’ve made, and this augurs well for the future.”

As for the final recital, “it features two more of my favourite composers, Schubert and Brahms, and the very last scheduled work I perform on the Chan stage as a fulltime faculty member is appropriately, Scriabin’s ‘Vers la Flamme (Towards the Sun)

“I can’t think of a better way to make my exit. It’s been a hoot.”

Tue Apr 1, 2003