“Anton, how many times do I have to tell you to get off the Internet? We need to leave NOW!” Anton is glued to my Mac mesmerized by Richard Strauss’ aria on DigitalConcerts.com sung in perfect German, that Anton very much appreciates. “Mom! Give me a minute; I cannot leave in the middle of the phrase!”
“Daniel, get off the piano, stop playing at once! It is time for lunch”
Last week Musical Bridges was hosting Lilya Zilberstein and her two sons, Anton 16 and Daniel 22. I fed them, drove them, and as we say in untranslatable Russian folk –became a mother for all three of them for the time being. In return I got to witness an old European tradition of musical generations in the making. Lilya’s husband Alex, is a trumpet player and she is a pianist. They met at University in Russia. Their two sons are pianists just like Lilya. Not only do they play piano in the normal sense of the word, they live it.
Prior to their arrival I convinced Lilya to stay at the hotel across the street from me, although I know they would have preferred to stay at the house. The morning after arriving in San Antonio, I got a call from her at 9am, “Anya, Daniel refuses to eat hotel food and prefers to have breakfast at your house.” After a Russian-style full-blown breakfast my musical guests adopted my two grand pianos in different rooms. This was the beginning of my musical weekend. My house came to life with the beautiful sounds of piano.
Lilya’s professionalism never ceases to impress me; she is amazing! I remember a few years ago visiting her backstage during the intermission of her performance with the San Antonio Symphony. She had just finished playing Rachmaninoff ‘s 3rd piano concerto, yet here she was practicing Burlesque by Richard Strauss on an upright piano in her dressing room for her next performance in the US and was talking to us at the same time. Needless to say, Burlesque is incredibly difficult and to play and to talk at the same time is totally impossible, especially the final tempo.
After breakfast, Anton went to my practice studio, closed the door and examined my shelves of music scores. He picked a concerto for violin, piano and string quintet by Chosson and embarked on a sight-reading journey. Rob and I thought that it was Lilya playing and it turned out her little boy was performing the piece seeing it for the first time in his life. It normally takes 2-3 months for a very experienced concert pianist to learn this piece because it is very complicated. Anton has a sweet tooth and his eyes light up when he plays the piano, much like when he sees cream puffs from Costco.
Anton and Daniel were born into the world of music. Their summer excitement includes a trip to Aix-en-Provence for the Opera Festival in June, then summer courses in Austria. They pay for summer classes proudly earning money from their concerts. They know they are very fortunate and occasionally together with Lilya, they get an opportunity to perform with Martha Argerich-the Goddess of the international piano world. Normally it happens during Lugarno Summer Festival in Switzerland.
The boys speak German between themselves in a car and often giggle like two little toddlers. They also speak Russian and English equally well. On top of that, Daniel speaks Spanish, Italian and French… yes a French girlfriend is responsible for the perfect French accent…Daniel also made a pact with himself to compose one poem a day, so he goes everywhere with his little notebook and constantly writes verses.
It was great to watch them backstage while Lilya was playing Brahms. They listened to her with such respect and admiration!
I hope life will be kind to these two intellectuals who live and breathe music. I very much enjoyed spending a week with this second generation in the making! I am sure they will proudly continue the legacy of their musical parents. Occasionally artistic inspiration gets in the way of reality. As the result of it, tomorrow I will go to the post office to mail to Germany the jacket and cell phone Daniel left at the hotel.