Virtual Piano Recital given by David Silkoff
22nd July 2020
It was with enormous pleasure and anticipation that Cantate Brentwood Cathedral Music welcomed pianist David Silkoff for the first ever virtual piano recital, which was streamed live on 22nd July from David’s studio in Essex. In the absence of several recitals due to take place at Brentwood Cathedral this year, which were cancelled because of the current pandemic, today’s concert was a most welcomed return to the music enjoyed so much by the Brentwood Cathedral lunchtime audience. On this special occasion, and through the wonders of technology, David’s playing of Beethoven, Chopin and Debussy would be heard much farther afield!
David Silkoff has over thirty years of experience as an accomplished soloist, accompanist and teacher. His full biography details can be found at the end of this review.
In this 250th anniversary year of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), David opened his recital with the glorious ‘Pathétique Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13’, written in 1798. Named ‘Grand Sonata Pathétique’ by his publisher for its emotional and passionate qualities, it was dedicated to his friend, Prince Karl von Lichnowsky, and is thought to have been inspired by the music of both Mozart and Bach.
In the first movement, ‘Grave – Allegro di molto e con brio’, with its powerful introduction and varied themes, David’s musical energy was palpable throughout the ‘tremolo’ octaves, exciting chord progressions and many other technical requirements. In a dramatic coda (with a brief reminder of the ‘Grave), the movement finished with a swift cadence, effectively concluded by the performer! The second movement, ‘Adagio cantabile’, which has been compared with Mozart’s Sonata no. 14, is one of those pieces which has an immediate mesmerising effect, stopping you in your tracks!
The main theme has been used numerous times by various musicians and film companies, and is often played separately at recitals. While we listened from our homes, here in the UK and overseas, David brought us all closer to experience the sentiments of the soothing melodic phrasing, through his deep understanding of this profoundly comforting movement. In contrast, we then heard the final movement, ‘Rondo’, with its main theme resembling parts of the other movements and therefore connecting all three, which David demonstrated in a lively and entertaining manner. It is hardly surprising that the ‘Pathétique’ has remained one of Beethoven’s most celebrated compositions.
During the performance, David spoke at length about his chosen pieces, accompanied by several photos of his music studio, and particularly of his beautiful grand piano, providing an attractive visual backdrop to the music.
David’s middle piece was ‘Ballade no. 2 in F major, op. 38’ by Frederic Chopin (1810-1849), composed between 1836 and 1839 in France and then Majorca, where he received treatment for tuberculosis. Chopin’s Four Ballades (1831-1842), inspired by the poet Adam Mickiewicz, are considered to be some of the most challenging pieces in the piano repertoire, frequently performed and recorded many times; his ‘ballade form’ inspired composers such as Liszt and Brahms to write their own ballades. Chopin’s Ballades are quite different from each other, although sharing many similarities, such as time signatures and richly sounding Romantic motifs. ‘Ballade no. 2’ was dedicated to Robert Schumann, in return for Schumann’s dedication of his ‘Kreisleriana’ piano work to Chopin.
It began quietly with a lilting lullaby theme in 6/8 time – ‘sotto voce’ – continuing for a while in a reflective, almost hymnal way, gradually fading to prepare for the fiery contrast to follow! David was ready for this ‘presto con fuoco’ section, now in A minor, delivering every cascading statement and musical mood change with passion and conviction. After several changes of tempo and melody, and variations (with a fleeting chromatic similarity to the first Ballade), the ‘presto con fuoco’ theme is reintroduced before ending abruptly; both themes are echoed before the piece reaches its peaceful conclusion, all captured so impressively by David’s sensitive performance.
The final piece of the recital was ‘Reflets dans l’eau’ by Claude Debussy (1862-1918), often seen as the first Impressionist composer and hugely influential. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire with César Franck, amongst others, and greatly admired the music of Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Wagner. As David mentioned, Debussy was also inspired by the paintings of Monet and by the sounds and sights of flowing water, clearly evident in ‘Reflets dans l’eau’.
Composed in 1905, it is the first of three piano pieces from his first volume of ‘Images’, which are frequently performed separately. It opens serenely with a slow ‘andantino molto’ tempo, setting the watery scene with luscious, fast-changing harmonies, and sharing similarities with Ravel’s ‘Jeux d’eau’. Debussy composed a number of pieces about water, using tone colours, which we heard today in the light reflecting off the surface, with ripples moving outwards and the contrasting, almost still, then rapid flow of the water. The continuous brief melodic statements gave the listener the freedom to reflect on their own images and David’s obvious connection with this genre produced a truly exquisite interpretation of this remarkable piece.
In all his pieces, David delighted us with his superb performance this afternoon. Although the audience was spread virtually far and wide (in their hundreds!), through his wonderful playing David managed to unite us in the spirit and joy of the music which he brought to all his listeners, and we hope he sensed the tumultuous applause across the virtual screens!
On behalf of Nina How, who organises the Cathedral recitals and kindly introduced today’s concert, and Andrew Wright, Director of Music at Brentwood Cathedral, we would like to thank David Silkoff for giving such an immensely enjoyable recital from his studio, and we also thank everyone involved in making this occasion possible during these challenging times. We look forward to hearing many more musicians in the coming months and would like to extend the warmest invitation to you all to join us!
David Silkoff – Biography
David Silkoff has enjoyed a successful and extensive career as a performer and teacher for more than thirty years, beginning his studies when he won a Junior Exhibition to the Guildhall School of Music, where he studied with Ieuan Roberts. He also studied with Lina Collins, a pupil of Mathilde Verne, who was a pupil of Clara Schumann! He was a full-time student at the Royal College of Music, studying with Kendal Taylor and Cyril Smith; during this time, he won the Martin Scholarship for further study. He also studied at the Royal Academy of Music, where he won the Lloyd Hartley Prize. In 1975 David gave a successful debut at the Wigmore Hall, which was highly praised in the ‘Review of London Recitals’, mentioning his “glowing technique” and “sensitive playing”.
David has performed as a soloist around Britain and abroad and is highly sought after as an accompanist in duos and chamber music, which includes the Purcell Room and other venues. He is a regular examination accompanist and also for ‘Young Musician of the Year’ competitions. In addition, David enjoys accompanying at corporate events, such as weddings and light music events. His repertoire ranges from Bach and Beethoven to Schoenberg and Ligeti. In 2015 he gave the premiere performance of Schoenberg’s ‘Verklärte Nacht’ transcribed for piano solo.
He has given recitals at the Forge in Camden and for the London Schubert Society. Over the years he has performed with King’s College Orchestra, London, as well as Essex Symphony and Brentwood Philharmonic Orchestras. In 2010 he played Brahms 1st Piano Concerto with the Woodford Symphony Orchestra, with whom he also performed Rachmaninov’s 2nd Piano Concerto, for their 60th Anniversary in 2013. In 2014 he played the Mendelssohn G minor Piano Concerto with the Aminta Orchestra at St. James, Piccadilly for their 30th Anniversary Celebration Concert. David currently has a busy teaching career privately and in schools in the SE of England.