Master pianist to hit right notes in SeoulPianist Russell Sherman, 74, is being called a “philosopher” of the keyboard by Seoul Arts Center, which hosts him for a performance this weekend. This may be because he’s written a well-received book of essays about playing the piano.
But others have noted a certain intellectual quality in the American’s playing. “Sherman is a virtuoso, to be sure,” a Boston Globe critic once wrote of him, “but there’s a cerebral wit and waywardness in him, along with a mastery of the instrument’s coloristic resources, that lifts him above anybody else in the pianistic major or minor leagues at the moment.”
Sherman’s Seoul Arts Center recital, at 4 p.m. Sunday, comes four years after his last Korean visit, in Nov. 2000, when he captivated the audience with a performance of Liszt’s “Transcendental Etudes.”
But he has personal connections to Korea ―notably the fact that he is married to a Korean pianist, Byeon Hwa-gyeong. Sherman was her teacher; he has taught many other Korean pianists as well, including Lee Bang-sook, Paik Hye-sun and Park Su-jin. He once said that if he believed in reincarnation, he would want to born again as a Korean.
On Sunday, Sherman will play Beethoven, Debussy, Bartok and Liszt.
Sherman was the first American to record all of Beethoven’s piano sonatas and concertos; Fanfare magazine called the recordings “a set for the ages.” He has performed in North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia; among the orchestras he has worked with are the Chicago Symphony, the Boston Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony and New York’s Orchestra of St. Luke’s. With the last, he performed a cycle of the complete Beethoven piano concertos (he did the same with the Czech Philharmonic).
Sherman has been acclaimed by critics the world over. The New York Times called him “by any measure, one of the truly extraordinary pianists before the public.” In the United States, he has performed as part of the Distinguished Artists series at New York’s Tisch Center for the Arts at the 92nd Street Y, at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and at the Ravinia Festival, the Mostly Mozart Festival and the Hollywood Bowl.
Sherman’s book, “Piano Pieces,” short essays about piano playing and anecdotes from his life as a pianist and teacher, was published in 1996. A Korean-language version will be in bookstores this month under the title “Piano Iyagi.”
Born in New York, Sherman started learning piano at age six. He made his stage debut at Town Hall at the age of 15. He graduated from Columbia University at age 19 with a degree in the humanities.
He taught music as a visiting professor at Harvard University, and is currently a distinguished artist-in-residence at the New England Conservatory.
by Choi Sun-young
Tickets to Sunday’s performance range from 30,000 won ($26) to 70,000 won. For more information, call (02) 541-6234 or visit the Web site www.sac.or.kr.