Lilya Zilberstein Russian Pianist in recital Sydney October 2023 Australia



Russian born Lilya Zilberstein in concert, Sydney Australia October 2023

Monday night was an interesting addition to the series “International Pianists in Recital”. Sydney Symphony has partnered with Theme & Variations Piano Services to bring great pianists to Sydney including this year Stephen Hough and Javier Perianes.

The final artist for 2023 is Russian born Lilya Zilberstein performing “Grand Expressions”. Zilberstein was born and trained primarily in Moscow. Around the age of 20 she won the Competition of the Russian Federation. A year before her graduation she also won the coveted first prize in the Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition in Bolzano, Italy. This launched her career touring almost every European country plus Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Korea and Canada. She secured a contract with Deutsche Grammophon for her own albums. With EMI she has also recorded with Maxim Vengerov, Gautier Capuçon and Martha Argerich, all stellar names in the world classical music scene.

It was a good sized audience at the City Recital Hall. Ms Zilberstein came out on stage, took a modest bow and seated herself to begin. The program comprised of “Expressions” as the program name suggested. The first was 6 “Moments Musicaux” by Schubert. Super modern at the time of writing (1828) the work begins with free flowing, conversational styled phrases. Zilberstein made the most of these, frequently changing tempo as if they were just springing to mind. It was presented almost like a soliloquy albeit a little rushed.

As the other Moments rolled on, the same style continued raising images of a road trip where the driver continually touches the breaks to stop and look at a flower, a tree, a landscape. The result created emphasis and a great number of highlights but, at the same time, made for a bit of a bumpy ride. There seemed to be very few delicate moments even though the composition gave opportunity for them. The applause was fairly conservative at the close of this piece.

Next we moved to Liszt and his “12 songs” written and compiled over the span of 30 years. In comparison to Schubert, Liszt himself was a showy performer, good looking with a superman jaw and long, lanky legs folding under the piano. His writing matched his performance style and Zilberstein seemed more at ease with this piece including extra flourishes and cross hand movements. The tempo became more steady. Some parts were bold and dramatic, others quite lovesick. The audience loved this piece and gave good strong applause at the close, clearly enjoying it.

After interval, Zilberstein performed all 13 of Rachmaninov’s Preludes from opus 32. His style of writing is different again from the previous two composers and, this time, Zilberstein hit a home run with her performance. This felt like her personal territory. She has recorded these preludes for Deutsche Grammophon back in 1989 so they have been in her repertoire for a very long time. Every phrase made sense, flowing from one to the next. There was so much confidence and a performance that comes from knowing a work back to front, inside and out. It was a startling difference from the first half which gripped the audience, perfectly quiet, throughout the full 30 minutes.

The work is technically challenging reaching the extreme ends of the keyboard, some times light as air, other times storming like a wild tornado. It was an amazing performance of an amazing work and the audience were thrilled. They gave her huge applause but, as is typical of a Sydney audience, they suddenly stopped all their enthusiasm and started leaving after the second curtain call thus, no encore was required. I’ve heard this strange behaviour of ours makes us a bit of a laughing stock to overseas performers.

All that matters is that they really did enjoy it and I’m sure she will once again draw a big crowd should she choose to visit Sydney again.

Sydney Symphony and Theme & Variations will continue their International Pianists in Recital series in 2024. See here for more details:

More about Lilya Zilberstein:

What’s on next at City Recital Hall?


SCHUBERT – Moments musicaux D780 (1828)

LISZT – 12 Songs by Franz Schubert S558 (1838/76)

RACHMANINOV – Preludes Op. 32 (1910)