FANFARE The Magazine for Serious Record Collectors
Volume 22, No. 1 - September/October 1998

The Jerusalem Trio Talk about recording Brahms Piano Trios, and their working partnership


A new recording of Brahms Piano Trios Nos 1 and 2 made by the Jerusalem Trio is being released by DOREMI. The playing of the Trio has enjoyed significant critical and public acclaim with comments like: "The Jerusalem Trio took a thought provoking view, the myriad of colours they have at their disposal having the hallmark of impending greatness..."- The Strad (UK); "... Breathtaking performance...They are equipped with that same special something' which also characterized the young Brahms..." - Reylin Stadtzeitung (Germany); and "...The future Perlmans and the Barenboims.." - Tzipi Shohat, Tel Aviv.

The Trio comprises: Yaron Rosenthal (piano); Roy Shiloah (Violin); and Ariel Tushinsky (cello).

Yaron Rosenthal was a First Prize winner in the Young Artist Competition in Jerusalem and has received the Gina Bachauer Award, the Leonard Bernstein Fellowship at Tanglewood Music Centre and the Italian Government Award for the Arts. He has given recitals and chamber music concerts in Israel, Europe, Canada, South Africa, North and South America and Australia.

Roy Shiloah made his solo debut with the Israel Philharmonic when he was only 12. Since then he has appeared frequently as soloist with them under Zubin Mehta in Israel and on tours of Europe and Canada. He has been a guest soloist with many European orchestras and has given numerous recitals in Europe, Israel, North and South America and Australia. Roy Shiloah plays an outstanding Guadagni violin.

Ariel Tushinsky has also appeared as a guest soloist with the Israel Philharmonic under Mehta and in chamber music concerts with Isaac Stern and Yefim Bronfman. A winner of the Clairmont competition, he has given recitals and performed in chamber music concerts in America, Europe and Israel. He plays on a Gustave Adolphe Bernadel cello, previously owned by José Garcia, who was the only cello teacher of Pablo Casals.

The new Brahms recording marks the Jerusalem Trio's recording debut. Jacob Harnoy and his DOREMI company were featured in a Fanfare article by Robert Maxham that appeared in Volume 21, No.1 (September/October 1997). Jacob Harnoy is DOREMI's Music director, Classical music producer and audio editor, researcher and audio restoration specialist. Readers will recall that Harnoy specialises in lovingly and expertly restoring historic recordings and that he is concerned with reproducing the best possible sounds of performance by such artists as David Oistrakh, Jascha Heifetz and Andrés Segovia. This DOREMI Legendary Treasures series is complemented by an impressive number of new DOREMI recordings by promising artists of music by Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Dvorak, et al., and a series devoted to guitar music

Jacob Harnoy has produced for many classical labels such as RCA Red Seal and RCA Victor (BMG Classics), EMI and Decca-London (Polygram). He has recorded, produced, or coproduced nearly 250 LPs and CDs with such orchestras as: The London Philharmonic Orchestra, The Philharmonia Orchestra, I Soloisti Veneti, Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony and Victoria Symphony with renowned soloists such as Plácido Domingo, Ofra Harnoy, Sir Charles Macerras and Igor Oistrakh.

Harnoy's productions have won 6 JUNO awards (plus 12 nominations), a Grand Prix du Disque' and numerous international distinctions, including "Critic's Choice" and "Best of the Year" by Gramophone (UK), High Fidelity (USA) and Musical America (USA). Several productions were for many months on the Bilboard's (USA) Classical Best Sellers list. Jacob Harnoy is a former academic and research scientist (in physics and nuclear engineering); music, however, has always been his primary focus.

The questions that I put to the Jerusalem Trio were answered on their behalf by their cellist Arie l Tushinsky. I began by asking him about their new recording and their feelings about and approach to these Brahms works.

"We would like to say, first of all. that we were privileged to work on this production with Jacob Harnoy who directed, produced and engineered the project.

We decided to record the Brahms Trios because they are among the most polished works in our concert repertoire. They are also our greatest favorites! We had often been asked by our audiences everywhere: "Have you made a recording of the Brahms trios?" So, it was quite appropriate for us to start with a recording of these Trios.

We planned to record Brahms' trios in chronological order. In fact, we would have liked to record all the three Brahms piano trios but unfortunately a 3rd trio would have been too long to fit onto one CD.

"Although we are not certain that there are any previous recordings which we wholeheartedly admire, we do like many recordings and we have learned from them. We explored, studied, and compared various historic and modern records, made by some of the great masters in the last 50 years. We listened to many players, both well-known as well as lesser-known, and we have found that performers of past generations generally are more distinctive in performance, sound, and style than those of the present generation. This aspect is most important to us and is our consistent goal: being original in interpretation, distinctive in sound, and unique in style.

"The First and the Second Trios of Brahms are quite different in style. We prefer the later revision of Brahms F.irst trio to the early one because it has benefitted from both the genius of the youthful Brahms, and that of older master, a blend which led to one of the finest masterpieces ever in chamber music. The revised, mature Trio Op. 8 has a magical musical-structural wholeness that the early version lacks. The Trio Op. 87 is totally different musically, stylistically and in background from the Trio Op. 8. Thus, the two works make a perfect contrast of styles for a CD of one composer. Both Trios are most challenging, technically and musically. They contain absolutely heavenly melodies and harmonies. We looked forward to presenting both works in a way which would present Brahms in the most dignified and honorable manner possible, and that is why we put ourselves heart and soul into this production."

I.L. When did you form The Jerusalem Trio and how did it happen? Did you have any fixed purpose such as specific works or types of repertoire that you wanted to perform?

A.T. The Jerusalem Trio was formed in 1989. We had met each other as teenagers at summer music festivals, in masterclasses at the "Jerusalem Music Centre", and during the several years that we had an active career as soloists with orchestras. The Jerusalem Trio is operating today under the auspices of the Jerusalem Music Centre, which promotes the Trio and coordinates its activities.

We decided to form a piano trio because of our great love for chamber music. We started in 1989 and we have performed together to this day, and with even more dedication to chamber music, and with stronger-than-ever ties among the Trio Members. We started playing pieces which we most liked, and as we advanced, enhanced our repertoire to include a full variety of periods ands styles from the Baroque to the Modern."

I.L. Would you like to say something of your backgrounds?

A.T. We, The Jerusalem Trio members, share a similar story: We are all native Israelis, trained in Israeli institutes with the finest music teachers in Israel: Haim Taub, Marcel Bergman, Pnina Zalzman, Benjamin Oren and Zvi Harel and abroad with Murray Perahia, Isaac Stern and Bernard Greenhouse. We have also attended masterclasses with some of the world's leading musicians who visited Israel and spent time with selected music students. This inspired us to make progress and excel in our musical studies, some of those Master Classes and other musical encounters took place at the Jerusalem Music Centre which later became our "home base". While teenagers, we had already performed as soloists and chamber musicians. We met and played with other musicians in festivals and gained more and more experience.

While subject to mandatory service in the Israeli Defence Forces, we were privileged to continue our musical and performing activities as part of the special education and entertainment programme of the Defence Forces. When we finished our Army service, we became more determined to pursue our future in chamber music. We still continued studies abroad, mostly in the United States. As we entered our twenties, we were all happily certain that the trio would continue to be our main focus.

Today, after ten years of playing together as a trio, we look back and feel that we made the right decision in forming and maintaining our Trio. It is also quite clear. By looking at our busy touring schedule around the world, that the international music-loving audience reciprocates our enthusiasm.

We are a full-time trio, and enjoy every minute of it!

I.L. How did you come to form your relationship with DOREMI and please describe how it work?

A.T. While on a concert tour in Canada we were fortunate to meet the cellist Ofra Harnoy who came to one of our concerts. She was probably impressed enough to "submit" a good report about us. And so, soon after, we were approached by DOREMI, who suggested making a recording. Discussions followed regarding repertoire, dates, and place. DOREMI decided to have the sessions at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's (CBC) Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto.

The process of recording was very interesting. Our artistic producer, Jacob Harnoy, demonstrated an outstanding level of understanding of the Brahms Trios so much so that we felt that he was one of us - a member of the Jerusalem Trio! It is extremely important for us to have such a producer, one who understands our thinking and works with us on the project as if he were the fourth member of our Trio!!! Jacob was most helpful in making us deliver our best. We worked closely with him and honed our interpretation with him, before and at the sessions. That made the process of the recording a very special, great experience. We realized that we had an ideal environment and felt that we could rise to the occasion, unite as one heart and soul to express ourselves, and deliver to our utmost. The recording sessions were intense but went very well and remain in our memory as one of our greatest musical experiences. We succeeded in unifying our minds to such an extent that we created music which truly represented us both as a trio and as individual musicians! It was like a dream come true. We are very happy with the results, and for this too, we thank Jacob Harnoy.

I.L. What is your group/individual attitude to recordings as opposed to live performances?

A.T. The presence of a microphone may make performers feel differently to when they are in the presence of a "live" concert audience, but in this recording we believe that we succeeded in maintaining a "live" feeling and forging an ideal communication between performer and listener. The presence of the microphone, then helped capture the beautiful moments for posterity.

I.L. What do you think of concerted works for trio and orchestra such as the ones by Beethoven or Martinu?

A.T. Both Beethoven's and Martinu's "triple" concertos are fine works - and we play the Beethoven Triple regularly with orchestras throughout the world. But they are not chamber-music, although they were written for a piano, violin and cello. The presence of an orchestra takes away that "chamber" atmosphere and makes it into a "concerto", which is a different world. It lacks the intimacy of chamber music. However, the kind of cooperation and harmony among the soloists required in these concertos is the same as that required in chamber music.

I.L. Do you find that you face different audiences for chamber than orchestral music?

A.T. We have noticed that the audience knows the different nature of the two forms very well. We often feel that our chamber audience is looking for something special and intimate, and the feeling of being closer to the performers is something which is hard to achieve with an orchestra. We need this interaction with the audience in order to communicate with them and to play as well as we can.

I.L. Do you think there is a different audience for CDs than for concerts?

A.T. It is difficult to answer this one. Today's technology provides CD players and very high quality stereo systems. We know that certain artists, like Glenn Gould, preferred recordings to live concerts. Others, like Sviatoslav Richter, preferred live concerts. We think that there is room for both.Live concerts have unique moments of excitement, and the creation of an event. A good recording will provide a listener with a great deal of pleasure and excitement as well as a revealing, enriching experience.

I.L. Do you occasionally team up with a second violin (or other instrumentalists) to produce piano quartets or larger ensembles?

A.T. Yes, we do. We frequently perform the Piano Quintets by Brahms, Dvorak, and Franck. As well as quartets. We consider these as close "family relatives" of the Piano Trio. They have a wider range but still keep those special qualities which are unique to chamber music. We hope to record all Brahms' piano trios, quartets and quintets.

I.L. "What works would you like to record in the future?

A.T. We would like to do the Third Piano Trio by Brahms, and then the trios by Ravel, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky and Schubert, before we move to more contemporary or lesser-known works. This is not because we see contemporary or lesser-known repertoire as having a lower priority, but because we would like first to demonstrate who we are and what (and how) we can contribute -in a repertoire that is more easily comparable to others. We are now in discussions with DOREMI concerning what to choose from the above for our second CD.

I.L . Do you have any views on repertoire stagnation?

A.T. If you mean by this question, that the repertoire is not refreshed and renewed from time to time, yes, we do think that it can lead to stagnation. Thus it is important to change our repertoire regularly and combine classical and romantic with contemporary works.

I.L. Have you ever considered playing any British or American music? The trios of Arnold Bax and John Ireland for instance?

A.T. Yes indeed! And we are looking at, exploring and performing piano trios from everywhere. There are so many good composers from all over the world! We intend to keep our programmes balanced not only by period, but by region. The latest addition to our ever increasing repertoire is a trio by the Australian composer Roger Smally called Piano Trio 1995'.

I.L. What is the average age of your audiences? Are you encouraging potential younger listeners in any way? Do you play any role in the community with schools and children?

A.T. We are aware of the fact that the classical music audience is slowly aging. We are active in educational programs encouraging young children and youth to be exposed to classic music.

We were recently at the "Savannah On Stage" Festival in which every performer gave a few small concerts for children aged 8-13, and motivated them to get them interested. The reaction was encouraging but also alarming: it looks like classical music was otherwise completely out of reach for them and it may be that in their most important and formative stage in life they were never exposed to good music. There is an urgent need to expose children to classical music. This kind of education will bring back and create new interest and younger audiences.

I.L. Would you like to comment about any differences that you might perceive between what an audience of music-loving amateurs might want to hear as opposed to an audience of professional musicians?

A.T. Well, professional audiences may be more challenging to play for than general music lovers. Nevertheless we do hope that we deliver the same level of satisfaction to all of them. It does not mean that we would play differently, but we hope that each one of them will enjoy it in his or her own way.

I.L. Are there things that one member of the trio would like to do but the others not so keen on?

A.T. As in any cooperative effort which involves more than one person, there are many ideas and many ways of doing things. The beauty of it is that many ideas are brought to life and at the end there is a blend of ideas which makes it to a final unity in which each of us gives his interpretation in the frame of the general ideas on which we all agree. We have played with this philosophy for many years and it has always been possible for us to accommodate the individual ideas and integrate them into our unique blend.

I.L. Would you care to comment about a hypothetical situation where trio and quartet players are poached by others or about what happens when one of them develops a solo career of his or her own?

A.T. Things like this happen, but a true musician will never give chamber music up, even though he/she is no longer in a formal ensemble and is busy with a solo career. We, each member of the Jerusalem Trio, perform as soloists as well, but we make sure that such "side" engagements", though of major importance to each of us, shall never interfere with the schedule and operation of the trio. Menahem Pressler use to say: "Not every soloist can play chamber music". This is very true. There is something in chamber music which one can bring to the refining of solo pieces. We would advise any colleague not to neglect chamber music: it is the spine of the musician's soul.

I.L. How do you all view international travel?

A.T. International travel... Sounds glamourous but in reality it is far from that. It is very hard, but it is part of being a professional performing musician. We travel nonstop, spending many hours sitting in airports, airplanes and cars, packing and unpacking, schlepping luggage and instruments, passing customs and immigration... Nevertheless, we do want to reach places, meet people of different places and cultures and try to interact with them, and that is the great reward of travelling. If the cello could only be a little smaller..."

I.L. Finally, have you played in Arab countries and have you any views on current Middle East situation and its impact on artists and musicians?

A.T. Music has nothing to do with anything - except music itself. No, we have not played in any Arab country. Unfortunately the Arab World is still closed for us, but we are looking forward to the day when the Middle East and for that matter, the rest of the world will be at peace and cultural exchanges could freely be made.

Legendary Treasures