Talks about his Spring Home Concert Hall's Music

Pianist Alexander Kobrin
Exclusive Interview: By Iride Aparicio

Photos Courtesy: The Steinway Society

SILICON VALLEY, CA -- In a telephone interview to  Rochester New York, where he works as an  Associate Professor of  Piano at the Eastman School of Music, Cultural World Bilingual  asked concert pianist Alexander Kubrin to tell our readers something about the works of Mozart, Chopin and Schuman that he will be performing in his On-Line concert to be streamed from April 23 through 26 as part the SPRING HALL CONCERT HALL CONCERTS  series sponsored by the Steinway Society the Bay Area. His answer was: "I will start by telling them that I decided to play these short  pieces in my concert because all these pieces are very new to me, and because, to me, the combination of Mozart and Chopin in one concert  is very natural."

C.W.B. Can you tell us why?

A.K.: "Because I think that these two composers are very connected. Even Horowitz (The Russian-Born American Classical pianist) did once say that "Mozart should be played by Chopin and Chopin should be played by Mozart," and what I think he meant was to try to explain to us that the unique mode in which Mozart interpreted his compositions, making each passage in the score sound so beautiful, so melodic with the music singing. This was something completely new for the classical era (1750-1820) and something that Chopin (l802-l849) years later, did with his own music, sometimes, even overdoing the Rubato."

Tempo Rubato is a musical term which comes from the Italian rubare which means "To Rob." What the term means to the performer, however, is that for expression purposes instead of playing the music at its stipulated tempo he or she may take the freedom to stretch or to shorten certain musical measures to give the melody a better interpretation.


C.W.B.  Could you tell your future audience something specific about the Mozart's piece that you will be playing?
A.L.: "I will say that  I am sure that everybody who is familiar with the Steinway Society's concerts is also familiar with Mozart's famous  A Major concerto with a magnificent second movement in f# minor, and that basically, what we are having here, (in the Sonata he is playing)  and one of the reason why I selected this sonata, (The Mozart's Piano Sonata No 2 in F Major, K 280) which I love, is that if we compare the A Major concerto's  second movement with the piano sonata in F Major, we notice that the concerto's second movement, is almost a direct quote from this sonata. The only difference is that the Sonata is in F Major and the second movement is f minor, and the second movement of the concerto is f# minor which is also a quite dark key. The Sonata is a beautiful piece of music that Mozart wrote (It was written in l783 and was published in l784) when he was in München and writing one Sonata after another."

C.W.B.  That was interesting. Now can you tell us something about the Chopin's Mazurkas?
A.L.: "Yes. I can tell you that those Mazurkas that I will be performing were one of those things "in my bucket," so to speak, because this will be one of the rare cases in which I will be playing Mazurkas. To me, for some reason, the Mazurkas are the most difficult Chopin's works to perform. They are to me as if a flash of light was put into a five-minute piece. They are also very challenging, but a natural tradition from Chopin, because, even when he wrote them when he was not living in Poland, he has the natural DNA for the challenge. I have Polish heritage. My Great grandmother was Polish, so I always felt this connection with Chopin's music when I was a boy. We had the Polish language in the family, and maybe the DNA (he says laughing). But these are very short pieces."

C.W.B. And looking at your program, I see that you have another Sonata at the end. What can you tell us about Schubert Piano Sonata in C minor?
A.L: "Maybe, that it is very hard for me to realize that people puts Schubert away now, because he was a great inspiration for many composers after him. To me, in this particular piece, Schubert's melodic genius can be compared with Mozart, even when more often Schubert has been compared to Beethoven. There are two sides to it and this sonata serves as perfect example of connecting the two composers. If you listen carefully to its opening theme, the Schubert's Sonata seem to  be influenced by Beethoven's 22 Variations, which is something that musicians mention in general,  because, melodically and rhythmically they are very close."

"Of course, Schubert wrote his sonata on C minor which for Beethoven is like Italy and Pizza. But we have to remember that Beethoven wrote his C minor concerto influenced by Mozart's C minor concerto, and if you compare the two themes, the openings of Mozart's C minor concerto and the opening of Beethoven's C minor concerto, they sound almost identical, but each concerto shows the musical characteristics of its composer.  Mozart starts his version with piano tempo and soft dynamics. Beethoven starts his entrance in Beethoven's style: using Forte tempo in his dynamics, and powerful and sonorous chords. In this particular Sonata, Schubert remains Schubert, but he adds attractive changes in moods and in color which makes the piece very challenging to follow."  

"Of course, we need to remember here that his C minor Sonata belongs to the group of works that he did a year and a half before the end of his life when he was writing lots of music. He wrote these three Sonatas, one month before his death. It is extraordinary. I don't think that any other composer wrote so many pieces in such a short period of time and especially when you read how Schubert died. He actually was killed, from the wrong medical treatment, which poisoned him. So, if you listen to what he wrote when he learned that he was close to death and in pain, you can hear his agony in his music, his struggles and his desperation in every work he wrote in the last year of so. But what is so unique and special about Schubert, is than even at the end, he had the stamina to create some of the most beautiful pages of music. For me, Schubert is the only composer that writes tragic music in the Major Keys. And he even wrote his last Sonata in D flat Major, which is non-U as the key of glory, or of triumph. But going back to the Schubert sonata that I will be playing, it is sort of fresh for me, which is the reason why I felt quite natural to put these three composers together (in his concert), I felt that these three composers were sort of connected, so, I felt a need to play their music."

Respecting pianist Kobrin's request to remain private, we will only mention at the end of our interview  that he was born in Russia and that he was taught to  play piano as a little boy by his father, who was a professional pianist. As for selecting his profession, he told us that at the age 17 after graduating for high school and not knowing the reason why, one day he just knew that he wanted to become a concert pianist and started studying at the conservatory in Moscow.

We will add here that while studying, he won The Gold Medal at the 2005 Cliburn International Piano Competition and top prizes at the Buzoni, Hamamatzu, and Scottish International Piano Competition. He was so outstanding that he was called The Van Cliburn of Today by the BBC of London. For those who are not familiar with Harvey Levan Van Cliburn Jr. he was an American pianist who at 23 won the Inaugural International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1959, and because he lived in Texas, he was known as a "Texan who conquered Russia," because playing the piano, he became an idol in Russia who transformed the Cold War.

We end our interview by asking the artist who has performed with renowned orchestras and in major concerts worldwide how did he feel, at the time, to be compared Cliburn, and he says:
A.L.:" That was sixteen years ago, but it was significant for me because Van Cliburn was an extraordinary musician, and an Icon for me."

To Order tickets for the Home Concert Hall Performance April 23-26, 2021 go to: Steinwaysociety.com For questions about the concert, contact their box office at (408) 300-5635.