Ishay Shaer’s busy schedule has taken him to venues around the world including in England, Poland, Belgium, the U.S., Puerto Rico, Brazil and Uruguay. In fact, it is more common to hear the Israeli perform outside the Jewish state than on home turf.
“I mostly perform abroad,” the internationally renowned pianist says in an interview from his home in Givatayim, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv.
“The Israeli classical music scene is very impressive considering the country’s size,” he says. “There are a lot of classical musicians and many have studied abroad. It’s fantastic. But there isn’t enough of an audience for classical music in Israel, and while the same holds true abroad, it is very noticeable in Israel because the country is so small.”
Shaer will be in Toronto for a Syrinx Concert event at the Mazzoleni Hall. He will perform works of Beethoven, Debussy, Chopin and Canadian composer Jean Coulthard.
“The program of music is gorgeous,” the 36-year-old told The CJN, a few weeks before the performance.
This is not Shaer’s first visit to Canada. The pianist, regarded by music critics around the world as a “leading pianist of his generation,” has played as part of the Syrinx Concert series in Toronto in 2017, as well as at the Montreal Bach Festival, and as a soloist with the McGill Chamber Orchestra.
Having met audiences the world over, Shaer says there’s no one type of music fans he prefers over another but always enjoys “a responsive, authentic audience.”
“For me, reaching the audience, giving people meaningful experiences, is what I hope to achieve.”
Shaer is known for his attention to detail. When adding new pieces to his repertoire, he says the practice time can take anywhere from “one week to one year.”
Becoming a pianist was never Shaer’s goal. He started tickling the ivories at a young age but studied computer science at university in his early 20s. It was only when he didn’t have enough time for piano that he realized music was a central part of his life. “When I was studying computer science in university, I had no time for music for the first time in my life, and I realized that music was a physical need for me. I never realized it before.”
Shaer holds a number of international music awards including first prize in the 2006 Newport International Competition in the U.K., third prize in the 2007 Silvio Bengalli International Piano Competition in Italy, the 2009 award from the International Beethoven Competition in Bonn, as well as a number of awards from Israel.
In November 2017, Shaer released an album of works by Beethoven, with the British label Orchid Classics. “Fortunately for us, [Shaer] pursues the individuality of his sound and looks for his own interpretative lines … an interpreter attentive to details, who has a very careful sound and shows a wonderful understanding of the musical discourse … This is an essential recording on the shelf of any music lover,” read a review in Codalario Magazine of the recording.
The Syrinx Concerts Toronto, helmed by artistic director Dorothy Sandler-Glick, creates a program that combines familiar classic chamber music works with a contemporary Canadian composition. Shaer says he will know he succeeded in portraying his version of these pieces by the reaction of the audience. If “I have given new perspective” or “touched their hearts”, then the concert has been a success.
Ishay Shaer plays at the Mazzoleni Hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music, 273 Bloor St. W , Toronto on June 6. www.rcmusic.com. He is also playing a chamber music concert at Heliconian Hall, Toronto on May 26.