Recitals, New York City
Charles Michener, The New York Observer
On a recent evening, while the rest of the world was glued to the spectacle of bombs raining down on Baghdad, I found myself enthralled by the spectacle of a young man seated at a piano in the elegant paneled library of the Lotos Club. The occasion was a fund-raising gala for the Music Festival of the Hamptons, and the listeners-well-heeled men and women in evening dresswere not the sort to get sappy over one of Mendelssohn’s “Songs Without Words,” no matter how exquisitely delivered. But as the pianist, a young Israeli named Daniel Gortler, played the Song in D major, a Romantic miniature that rippled with straight-from-the-heart tunefulness, I felt a current of common feeling run through the room-a sense of profound gratitude that we were here together in a safe place.
Sharing great music may be the best way to cope with these bewildering, benumbing times. A few days after the Lotos Club event.
I heard Mr. Gortler again, in a midday recital at Rockefeller University, next-door to New York Hospital. This time, many of the listeners were dressed in clinical white coats or surgical scrubs, but for the moment, they had left behind their labs and their operating rooms for the alternative realities of Beethoven (the Op.110 Sonata), Mendelssohn (eight “Songs Without Words”) and Brahms (the Variations on a Theme by Handel).
Mr. Gortler, a slim, buzz-cut man in his mid-30’s who lives in Tel Aviv and is hoping to make New York his home, brought these 19th-century masterworks to vibrant life, revealing qualities that are rare in today’s world of young, breakneck virtuosos. His thoughtful grasp of the works architecture reminded me of the late Claudio Arrau, and his ear for the noble, singing line reminded me of Arthur Rubinstein. As he traversed the peaks and plains of the Handel Variations, a journey requiring prodigious reserves of nimbleness and stamina, he demonstrated the power of a musical adventure to make the world’s great misadventures seem puny by comparison.