Review of Ilya Itin’s recital at the Golandsky Institute Summer Symposium and Piano Festival

Itin: Expressive, not flamboyant

David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Classical Music Critic

Ilya Itin is part of the Golandsky Institute

Ilya Itin is part of the Golandsky Institute’s annual International Piano Festival.

PRINCETON, N.J. — Glancing at the lineup for the Golandsky Institute’s annual International Piano Festival here, one might initially assume that it’s yet another laudable program to put young classical artists on a solid career path, starting on the right (or correct) foot. Why, then, is one of the festival’s most important recitals by the well-into-middle-age pianist Ilya Itin?

The Golandsky Institute actually has a much broader reach, to pianists young, old, professional and otherwise, to acquire a piano technique with minimum danger of injury and to play without pain, no doubt the indirect legacy of pianists such as Gary Graffman and Leon Fleischer who, at the height of their considerable careers, lost the use of their right hands.

Itin, who placed well in the prestigious Leeds Competition and has a good career in Europe and the Far East, is apparently the institute’s poster person. The idea is the physical freedom that allows pianists to be all that they can be. Music education veterans say that many such institutes exist with similar missions.

Evaluating the Golandsky Institute’s effectiveness is well beyond the scope of an armchair observer. At Itin’s recital Friday in Richardson Auditorium here, one can only say what one heard (a pianist with easy command of every aspect of his instrument) and what one saw with a good view of the keyboard (which was practically nothing). He seemed hardly to move at all.

That’s significant for those of us who witnessed the flamboyant rise of Lang Lang from the Curtis Institute, who represents the opposite of physical economy — and is seen, all too often, with worrisome Band-Aids on his hands. For Itin, lack of physical movement did not translate into a lack of expressive range in the least. Were that the case, one would certainly hear it in his formidable concert program including Chopin’s Preludes Op. 28 and Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit.

Chopin’s 24 intentionally fragmentary preludes are like shards that hail from different worlds, almost like a series of archaeological objects. Whatever one might think of how Itin characterized the preludes individually, he gave each one its own coloristic tint, while also giving keen attention to the way they’re sequenced with an intelligent tempo scheme. So there was unity — amid maximum diversity.

The greater feat, though, as in Ravel, who often inspires modern pianists to render feats of scene painting. Itin’s approach was the opposite of that, emphasizing what the notes say (as opposed to how they sound). The music could have seem dry from a descriptive standpoint. Yet the final movement’s depiction of the mythical, demonic Scarbo — who usually seems fairly harmless with scene-painting pianists — was malevolent bordering on terrifying. Undoubtedly, Itin is a major pianist, with an ease about him that makes you want to listen to him for hours.

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About golandsky
Edna Golandsky is the leading exponent of the Taubman Approach. She has earned wide acclaim throughout the United States and abroad for her extraordinary ability to solve technical problems and for her penetrating musical insight. She received both her bachelor of music and master of music degrees from the Juilliard School, following which she continued her studies with Dorothy Taubman. Performers and students from around the world come to study, coach, and consult with Ms. Golandsky. A pedagogue of international renown, she has a long-established reputation for the expert diagnosis and treatment of problems such as fatigue, pain, and serious injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, focal dystonia, thoracic outlet syndrome, tennis and golfer’s elbow, and ganglia. She has been a featured speaker at many music medicine conferences. She is also an adjunct professor of piano at the City University of New York (CUNY). Ms. Golandsky has lectured and conducted master classes at some of the most prestigious music institutions in the United States, including the Eastman School of Music, Yale University, the Curtis Institute of Music, and Oberlin Conservatory. Internationally, she has given seminars in Canada, Holland, Israel, Korea, Panama, and Turkey. In 2001 she was a guest lecturer at the European Piano Teachers’ Association in Oxford, England, and in July 2003 she conducted a symposium in Lecce, Italy. In August 2010, she gave a master class and judged in a piano competition at the Chatauqua Festival. She was a guest presenter at the World Piano Pedagogy Conference in 2003 and 2009 and was engaged to return in October 2010. In 2011 she was a guest presenter at the Music Teachers National Association in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; the Piano Teachers Congress of New York; and the Music Teachers Association of California. She gave week-long workshops at the Panama Jazz Festival at 2009 and 2010 and will return in 2012. For the past three years, Ms. Golandsky and violinist Sophie Till have been working on a detailed application of the Taubman principles for string players. An instructional book about beginning lessons in the Taubman Approach for violinists is slated to come out in the future. Ms. Golandsky’s application of the work for computer users has resulted in Healthy Typing, an instructional DVD. Edna Golandsky is the person with whom Dorothy Taubman worked most closely. In 1976 Ms. Golandsky conceived the idea of establishing an Institute where people could come together during the summer and pursue an intensive investigation of the Taubman Approach. She encouraged Mrs. Taubman to establish the Taubman Institute, which they ran together as co-founders. Mrs. Taubman was executive director and Ms. Golandsky served as artistic director. Almost from the beginning, Mrs. Taubman entrusted Ms. Golandsky with the planning and programming of the annual summer session. She gave daily lectures on the Taubman Approach and later conducted master classes as well. As the face of the Taubman Approach, Ms. Golandsky discusses each of its elements in a ten-volume video series. Mrs. Taubman has written, “I consider her the leading authority on the Taubman Approach to instrumental playing.”

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