Orli Shaham

A consummate musician recognized for her grace, subtlety, and vitality, Orli Shaham has established an impressive international reputation as one of today’s most gifted pianists. Hailed by critics on four continents, Orli is in demand for her prodigious skills and admired for her interpretations of both standard and modern repertoire. The Chicago Tribune recently referred to her in a performance with the Chicago Symphony as “a first-rate Mozartean” and London’s Guardian said Ms. Shaham’s playing during her recent Proms debut with the BBC Symphony Orchestra was “perfection.”

Highlights of Orli Shaham’s international performance schedule in 2012-2013 include the east- and west-coast premieres of a piano concerto written for her by the acclaimed American composer Steven Mackey, with the New Jersey Symphony conducted by Jacques Lacomb and the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by David Robertson. The concerto was jointly commissioned by these orchestras, as well as the Sydney Symphony and St. Louis Symphony, where critics hailed the world premiere performance as “a tour de force.” Orli Shaham’s 2012-2013 season also features the opening concert of the National Philharmonic’s season conducted by Piotr Gajewski, Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety with St. Louis Symphony and concerto appearances with the Pacific Symphony and other orchestras. Ms. Shaham’s recital program for the season includes works by Bolcom, Brahms, and Mussorgsky; a number of chamber recitals rounds out her performance season.

Driven by a passion to bring classical music to new audiences, Orli Shaham maintains an active parallel career as a respected broadcaster, music writer, and lecturer. In 2005, she began a collaboration with Classical Public Radio Network as the host of “Dial-a-Musician,” a feature she created especially for the radio network. The concept of the program was to enhance listeners’ experiences of music and musicians. During the feature she directed listeners’ questions about classical music to fellow musicians by literally dialing them up for the correct answer. Her program hosted over 60 guests, including composer John Adams, pianists Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman, Emerson String Quartet violinist Philip Setzer and cellist David Finckel, and sopranos Natalie Dessay and Christine Brewer. Orli Shaham has taught music literature at Columbia University, and contributed articles to Piano Today, Symphony, and Playbill magazines and to NPR’s Deceptive Cadence blog. Ms. Shaham has served as artist in residence on National Public Radio’s Performance Today.

1) What or who inspired you to want to be an artist? 
Many things, but probably the most influential were my parents.  As newlyweds and young scientists in Israel, they didn’t have a lot of money, but they did have a shared love of music. Every week, they would go out and buy a record. By the time I came along, they had amassed a few hundred, and so there was great music playing in our house all the time.

2) What was your creative journey that has brought you to where you are in your career today?
One of the things about being an artist is that everything that you’ve experienced, everything you’ve seen, everything you’ve even heard about, informs who you are as an artist. There are no aspects of my journey that didn’t influence who I am as a musician today.

3) What do you need as an artist today? 
There is almost no government-sponsored or institutional support system in place for an artist these days, so you need to cultivate a lot of patronage.   You need to know not only how to seek out such support, but also how to make good use of it.

4) What creative project are you working on now? 
I’m looking forward to the imminent release (April 26) of the CD that I made with my brother Gil, Hebrew Melodies. What’s nice about my life nowadays is that there are always at least three or four creative projects going on at any time.

5) Where do you see yourself and your career in 10 years? 
I hope to continue to change and grow in unforeseen directions.

6) What does it mean to you to be an Israeli artist?
It brings with it a connection to a vibrant and multi-faceted culture, which includes not only Israelis, but Jews everywhere.  Along with that, it has a richness of history and very high standards and expectations.

7) What does it mean to you to have an organization like AICF available in the art world?
It’s extremely reassuring and endlessly helpful.  Without such an organization, I don’t know that I ever would have gained the concert-playing experience that I did as a young performer and as a teenager. And I surely would not be where I am today.