When Joseph Kalichstein returns to Fort Worth next weekend, it should be emphasized that he is not coming here to judge anybody. Instead, the pianist who has served on the jury for several Van Cliburn International Piano Competitions will be coming for a performance with the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth on Oct. 18 at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.
He will be joined by CMSFW artistic director Gary Levinson (violin), Richard Young (viola) and Ronald Leonard (cello) for a program of works by Beethoven, Mozart and 19th-century French composer Gabriel Fauré called “French Romantics Plus” (even though there is only one Frenchman on the bill). We recently caught up with Kalichstein between rehearsals at his home in Maplewood, N.J.
1. You frequently play concertos with symphony orchestras. How does playing chamber music compare to performing with a full orchestra?
The only difference is psychological. In the concerto setting, the spotlight is on you and you feel more responsible than being a member on a team. But the actual music, both physically and what you have to do with the notes, the structure of the music, the feeling of the music, it is all the same. It is not an accident that quite a few Mozart piano concerti can be played by a piano and a string quartet. For him, it was very, very similar.
The big difference is not between chamber music and a concerto. The big difference is between a solo recital and the rest. Something has to switch in the mind. There is very little that has to switch in the mind between a Mozart piano concerto and a Mozart piano quartet.
2. While everyone knows Beethoven and Mozart, Fauré might be new to some listeners. Tell us about that composer and the piece you will be performing by him.
Fauré is one of the enigmas of Western music. People do not know him well enough. He was extremely popular and influential in his day. He taught Ravel. He was a great father figure for that generation of French composers. And I think his vocal music, in particular, was on a par with Brahms or Schumann. I find his music to be extremely moving without being maudlin.
3. How about the Beethoven Sonata No. 4 in A minor for violin and piano you will be doing?
It sort of shakes you. It has a special energy and life force. If it were only the intellect, it would be interesting, like a crossword puzzle. But his music gets inside you and makes your blood race.
4. When you are performing as part of piano quartet, who are you watching? Since there is no conductor, how do chamber music players stay on the same page? It seems you do it by magic.
It is sensing rather than looking. You may remember that, a few years ago, a blind pianist from Japan [Nobuyuki Tsujii] won the Cliburn. I talked with the Takacs String Quartet about how they stayed together since he couldn’t see them, and they said absolutely no problem. Watching makes it easier, but it is not absolutely necessary. You sense what the other players are going to do. ‘Magic’ is the right word for it.
5. Speaking of the Cliburn, isn’t being a Cliburn judge just a nerve-wracking experience?
It is not so much nerve-wracking, as just difficult. You want to listen carefully. You certainly cannot doze off. You cannot let go of the concentration. It is very hard work. I don’t do many of them because I find them so exhausting. It is not as hard as being a competitor, but it is very hard work. And even if you don’t know [the competitors], you feel for them. I have been there.
--Punch Shaw, Special to the Star-Telegram
FRENCH ROMANTICS PLUS
• 2 p.m. Saturday
• Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth