A lot goes on to keep the viewer spellbound in "God of the Piano," an award-winning and much talked about Israeli film written and directed by Itay Tal that’s currently available for viewing online. Anat, its protagonist, is a pianist from a musical family who gives birth to a deaf baby. Throughout the movie, her actions shock us. Almost as a contrast, she uses speech to hide rather than reveal. Information about her inner life is withheld from us. Few clues are provided, so God of the Piano is indeed a mystery. The assumptions we make about Anat’s motivation become a component of the narrative as we are compelled to understand what drives her recklessness.
Played by the beautiful Naama Preis, Anat may hope that her son’s talents will be the catalyst to reconnect with her detached, virtuoso father; if so, this plan fails. In the end, the identity of the god of the piano, if there is one, is still unknown to the audience, and perhaps to Anat herself.
The god referenced in the title may only exist in Anat’s imagination, but devotees of the instrument can attest that Israeli goddesses of the piano are quite real and we can hear them every day.
For the past two decades, Jerusalem-born Orli Shaham has received critical acclaim for her brilliant pianistic technique and her special affinity for classical composers of the last three centuries, particularly Mozart. She also enjoys a reputation as a musical commentator, on both NPR and on her own show, “Dial a Musician,” broadcast over the Classical Public Radio Network. As an educator, she has achieved recognition as one who has developed the concert experience to encourage the love of the classical repertory in children as young as four.
Shaham appears throughout the world playing with noted orchestras, in recital and in chamber music, often onstage with her equally renowned violinist brother, Gil Shaham. She has acquired a following through her acclaimed recordings. In 2019 she initiated The Mozart Project for Canary Classics, a series of CDs that will eventually encompass all of the composer’s works for piano. Shaham will finish the complete piano sonatas over the next year and releases a new excerpt each week via her website.
Inspired by her own twin boys, Shaham in 2010 founded “Baby Got Bach” (now called Orli Shaham’s Bach Yard), curated concerts she hosts for kids including stories, performances with youthful guest artists, hands on encounters with musical instruments and the playing of specially adapted pieces by the “Three Bs” and others. These special events have been produced in music venues nationwide. With the recent pandemic, the pianist has now brought her Bach Yard “play dates” to children who can view the concerts online.
Although on hiatus now, award-winning composer and pianist Dr. Orit Wolf will continue to provide an innovative approach to music for those who attend her twice weekly Tel Aviv Museum of Art series, “On a Personal Note.” Combining the visual arts and the concert experience with breezy and often impromptu dialogues with guest artists from many musical genres, Wolf interviews them about the creative process, curates the programming, joins them in performance and often does a solo turn herself.
Like Shaham, Wolf wants to see younger people connect with classical music.
Wolf, from Tel Aviv, also appears on stage with orchestras and chamber groups around the world, giving about 90 concerts each year.
Wolf is also known as one of Israel’s most creative thinkers, who often writes and lectures on the intersection between technology, creativity, business, leadership acumen and the arts. Watch her TED Talk on the matter here.
In 2010, she was named by Marker, the Israeli magazine, as one of Israel’s 100 most influential people. Speaking and writing about the positive aspects of failure, she has noted: “Do not strive for perfect balance. The greatest creativity occurs when we let ourselves meet imbalanced moments.”
Playing professionally by age 11, Wolf went on to study at the Tanglewood Institute and Boston University, obtaining two degrees by age 23 from London’s Royal Academy of Music, where she now teaches.
Cheryl Kempler is an art and music specialist who works in the B'nai B'rith International Curatorial Office and writes about history and Jewish culture for B’nai B’rith Magazine. To view some of her additional content, click here.
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