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RISING STAR Great artists of tomorrow

05.01.12
Inon Barnatan
BBC Music Magazine

By Elizabeth Davis

It was clear early on the Inon  Barnatan would become a pianist: at the age of three, he started correcting his mother’s playing. ‘She played a bit – not professionally – and I very obnoxiously started telling her she was playing the wrong notes.’ And so he was sent to his first piano lesson, though  Barnatan  isn’t sure whether that was to encourage him or to give his poor mum a bit of peace and quiet.

Barnatan, now 32, was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, and one of his earliest memories is being taken to see a rehearsal of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante performed by violinist Itzhak Perlman and violist Pinchas Zukerman. ‘I remember sitting there transfixed, in awe of what was happening on stage, the connection between the musicians. And, in fact, next year I’m playing with Perlman, conducted by Zukerman, so I’ve come full circle.’

In the meantime, though, Barnatan, who today lives in New York, has just released his second solo recording, which brings together piano works by Ravel, Thomas Adès and Debussy alongside Ronald Stevenson’s 1970 Peter Grimes Fantasy. ‘I’d always loved Britten and especially his opera Peter Grimes,’ he explains, ‘but there’s not much for pianists to play by him. With this piece I finally get the chance to play some of his music – and it’s glorious.’

The disc takes its title, Darknesse Visible from the Adès work on the recording and, as the pianist explains, darkness became a central strand when he was compiling the programme: ‘All the pieces have a really fascinating dichotomy between light and dark; even in the most shimmering and charming moments the music is also threatening and seductive.’

When asked what he’s most proud of in his career, he cites neither a recording nor a specific performance, but something less tangible. ‘I’m proudest of the concerts where I completely managed to not think of myself, and get into a zone where everything just works – and that’s a rare thing, when you can ignore all the millions of things that go through your head and just get into the flow of performance.’