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Geelvinck International Fortepiano Festival


Dr Michael Tsalka

Selected Concert Reviews

Michael Tsalka

Credit: Sara Guastevi
Museu de la Música de Barcelona - L'Auditori

Prof. Christoph Keller for NWZ. A review describing two chamber recitals for the Annual Conclave of the German Tchaikovsky Society, June 22, 23, 2019:,5,492380581.html?fbclid=IwAR2Y5YjFnnCrkcZ1WrWDKJWxkNS8vdO9AGSAq2LM1ocw3wOEbgDJNCvoFtM

Pamela Hickman, a review concerning an evening at the Hateiva, celebrating Dan Tsalka's works:
When literature and music meet in the family: works of writer Dan Tsalka and pianist Michael Tsalka at a festive book launch of Dan Tsalka's book of essays in Jaffa, Israel

The launch of “Kol Hamassot” (All the Essays) of the late Israeli writer Dan Tsalka took  place in the intimate venue of the Teiva basement hall in Jaffa, Israel on October 27th 2018. Hosted by Mrs. Aviva Tsalka, the event was attended by people who had known the writer and his works, by literary figures and artists of different milieus. Dan Tsalka (1936-2005) was born in Warsaw. In World War II his family fled to the Soviet Union, living in Siberia, later in Kazakhstan. At the close of the war, he returned to Poland with his family, living in Wroclaw, where he studied humanities at the university there. In 1957 he immigrated to Israel. He studied philosophy and history at Tel Aviv University, then continuing his studies in France, also residing for a time in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Italy. Living in Tel Aviv, he engaged in editing and translation, publishing his first book in 1967. Published by Xargol Books (Tel Aviv) “Kol Hamassot”, a compendium of philosophical musings on a huge variety of subjects, collates three of the author’s books.
Emceeing the evening was Jonathan Nadav, managing director of the Hebrew University Magnes Press, who set the scene with his reading of a witty piece from the book about cigars and public figures associated with them. The first speaker was Prof. Aminadav Dykman (Dept. Hebrew Literature, Hebrew University of Jerusalem), who had been a close friend of Dan Tsalka. He defined Tsalka as a World War II writer, a “member of the République des Lettres”, a writer who had spent time in Europe, but who decided “it would all happen” in Tel Aviv.
Prof. Ariel Hirschfeld (Dept. Hebrew Literature, Hebrew University of Jerusalem) discussed some of the book’s contents and style, pointing out its very original and pithy writing, also making reference to Tsalka’s unique personality and limitless knowledge. Hirschfeld talked of the author’s awareness of all that was happening around him, of his familiarity with literary works and of his ability to engage in the minutest of detail of the huge range of subjects on which he touched. An image Hirschfeld used was of Tsalka “hovering above whatever situation he was observing, commenting on what he saw down below.” Hirschfeld’s reading of the writer’s portrait of poet/actor Avraham Halfi, in which Tsalka admits that he did not understand Halfi’s “unreal” inner world, was indicative of the writer’s sincerity and honesty. Hirschfeld concluded by making reference to Dan Tsalka’s noble humility and sincerity and to his belief that art exists in order to improve human life.
Dan Tsalka’s son – internationally renowned keyboard artist Dr. Michael Tsalka - performed a selection of piano pieces, opening with Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata in D Major (K.119), a piece evocative of the Spanish guitar, its unconventional textures suggestive of Spanish gypsy music and early flamenco. Then to the pianist’s sensitive, contrasted and gently embellished reading of Mozart’s downhearted Adagio in B minor for piano K 540, to be followed by a small taste of French composer Cécile Chaminade’s “Six pièces humoristiques” (1897); Tsalka’s reflective and delicate playing of this lyrical salon music delighted with its ambience of fin-de-siècle Paris. His rendition of movements from Israeli composer Yehezkel Braun’s “Four Keyboard Pieces” (1991), pieces straddling modality and tonality, abounded in colour, pianistic textures and imagination. The musical section of the event concluded with Michael Tsalka’s performance of another small gem of the musical salon - Paderewski’s Nocturne Op.16 No.4 - with the pianist’s gracious and wistful playing endorsing the piece’s sweet sentimentality with just a touch of melancholy.
The event ended with Jonathan Nadav’s reading of another excerpt from “Kol Hamassot”.


JOAN JOSEP GUTIÉRREZ YZQUIERDO Pàgina dedicada a l'activitat musical i a la reflexió i opinions de l'autor a l'entorn de la música i l'educació musical.
Michael Tsalka o la expresividad de la música


Pamela Hickman, article concerning Lady Huang’s Album (CD):
"Lady Huang's Album", a new CD of modern works for one or two harpsichords performed by Diana Weston and Michael Tsalka

“Lady Huang’s Album” - music for one or two harpsichords - is a new and unique recording presenting new music of living composers from Australia, Italy and the Americas and performed by two renowned keyboard artists - Australian-born Diana Weston and Israeli-born Michael Tsalka. Several of the works were written for them.

Four of the works on the recording are written for four hands (with Tsalka playing the primo part in pieces written for two harpsichords), the first being “Tilting at Windmills” (2017) by Australian composer and actress May Howlett (b.1931), a work inspired by Cervantes’ tale of Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza. Of the musical elements suggesting Howlett’s tongue-in-cheek but endearing description of the characters, the Spanish aspect - harmonic and rhythmic - is quite dominant (we even hear what a castanet effect). The composer refers to “the Don’s majestic chords and the squire’s erratic scale passages” in a colourful scene that alternates between gently appealing whimsy and intensity. Another work, this time strongly Australian in subject is “Crimson Rosella”, by musicologist/composer, broadcaster and writer Ann Carr-Boyd (b.1938); this was commissioned by Diana Weston for herself and Michael Tsalka, to be played on two harpsichords. Titled “in honour of one of Australia’s most spectacular and beautiful birds”, the piece consists for four sections, some of its material adapted from earlier works of Carr-Boyd. A mix of tonal and atonal modes, I think I heard the bird’s wing flutterings and bird call motifs. As the work progresses, the potpourri of dances and intensely loaded chords seems to move away from the bird, or does Boyd-Carr perhaps aim to describe the observer’s emotions on viewing the most splendid of parrots with its dramatic, eye-catching markings? Composed in 2016 and dedicated to Tsalka and Weston, “Toccata” by Mexican composer Leonardo Coral (b.1962), opens with small, separate jagged motifs, creating a “harsh dialogue”, in the composer’s own words. This is followed by a more pensive, introspective flowing section before returning to the feisty, teasing energy-infused ideas of the first section, thus to sign out of the masterful, quick-witted miniature.  In the last work for four hands is “3 Stukken a 4 main” (Three Pieces for Four Hands) by Argentinian-born composer, arranger, harpsichordist and organist Pablo Escande (b.1971), the first of the miniatures is a fiery, intense and joyfully brash Capricho. In contrast, the middle piece titled “Naive” mixes harpsichord registers in amiable, cantabile and wistful expression. The final Toccata is invigorating and entertaining in its driving, unrelenting Latin rhythms. I can only agree with Diana Weston, who claims that the skilfully written work “demonstrates the power, colour and vibrancy of the harpsichord supremely well.” In these works, the experience Weston and Tsalka have accrued in performing together is a major factor in what can only be referred to as uncompromising musical collaboration.

The pieces performed by Diana Weston here are all by Australian composers. “Green Leaf for Elke” by prolific composer Elena Kats-Chernin (b. Uzbekistan, 1957) is based on the first movement of her award-winning ballet “Wild Swans” (2002). Written in memory of opera director Elke Neidhardt, “Green Leaf for Elke”, a gently arpeggiated “poem”, touching and reflective in its tonal/modal mix, invites the listener to follow its relaxed harmonic process and join its elegiac course. It is surely no coincidence that recorder player Benjamin Thorn (b.1961), artistic director of the New England Bach Festival and arranger of works by such composers as Strozzi, Castello and Caccini, chose dance movements freely based on the same ground for “Underground Currents” (2010). Referring to the pieces somewhat based on tonality as “creating resonances of chaconnes and passacaglias”, Thorn’s writing comes across as improvisatory in character as it frequently veers off course to the unexpected with the wink of an eye. Originally from New Zealand, Diana Blom (b.1947) moved to Australia in 1969. The four pieces of “Lady Huang’s Album” (1984), from which the disc takes its name, are influenced by music of the ch’in, a seven-string long Chinese zither. In the work, the composer, whose time in Hong Kong and Malaysia has clearly provided the inspiration and background for writing in this style, introduces playing techniques idiomatic to the ch’in and Chinese scales. Blom’s writing is eloquent and sophisticated; Weston’s rendition of the four miniatures, so convincingly indicative of the plucked instrument, is descriptive, subtle and beguiling, enticing the listener into the evocative world of Chinese music and art. A real treat! The piece was dedicated to Mrs. Grace Wei Huang. 

Eclectic in taste, an artist performing from the classical music tradition, through jazzy and tango styles to his own compositions and improvisations, Italian early keyboard player and award-winning composer Gabriele Toia (b.1967) has dedicated “Variations on a Ground” (2016) to Michael Tsalka “as well as to some of the composers who most influenced my music”, of whom he mentions Béla Bartók, Ligeti, Chick Corea, Ennio Morricone and Alban Berg. The 13 variations are based on a ciaccona bass from Vivaldi’s Concerto in G-minor RV 107. The sections, some more harmonic in emphasis, others exploring the countless textural possibilities offered by the harpsichord, form a rich kaleidoscope of musical ideas. In playing that is not simply virtuosic but strategic, sensitive, rich in detail, shapes and imagination, Tsalka inspires and moves as he gives expression to the particular character and mood of each variation of this outstanding piece of music. Harpsichordist and organist Max Yount (b.1938, USA) is well also known as a teacher and composer. Michael Tsalka, whose connection with Yount goes back several years, has premiered works of his. “Sonatine” (2014) is an intense and complex piece, its tripartite construction concluding with a rondo which is, in the composer’s words, “interspersed with jazzy episodes”. Tsalka’s reading of it is sincere, objective and erudite but it is also entertaining (we remain unaware of its original programmatic content) as its personal appeal grows on one with listening. 

Recorded in 2017 for the Wirripang Label, Australia, listeners will appreciate the disc’s lively sound quality. Bristling with interest and variety, Diana Weston and Michael Tsalka present its selection of contemporary works in performance that is profound, discerning and insightful.


Interview for Radio Fine Music, Sydney’s Classical Radio Station.

Review by Radio Fine Music, Sydney’s Classical Radio Station,
concerning Lady Huang’s Album: Diana Weston, Michael Tsalka, a recently released CD by Wirripang (Australia):

Review by Classikon (Sydney),
concerning Michael Tsalka and Thoroughbass concert, Mossman Art Gallery, Sydney:

Award winning International keyboard performer Michael Tsalka to appear in Sydney

“Michael Tsalka’s recital at the Boston Early Music Festival was interpretatively revealing . . . showing almost incredible virtuosity throughout”
(The Berkshire Review, International Journal for the Arts, N.Y. and Boston)
Despite maintaining a hectic global schedule, Sydney audiences will have the chance to experience first hand the virtuosity of Israeli-born performer, teacher and scholar, Michael Tsalka, when he appears on 28 April 2018 at the Mosman Art Gallery.
In a unique program entitled “Latino Love Affair”, Tsalka will join Sydney-based early music ensemble Thoroughbass led by harpsichordist and Artistic Director, Diana Weston, exploring the dynamic works of South American, Italian and Australian composers, Scarlatti, Piazzolla, Escande, Howlett and others.
Trained in the USA, Michael Tsalka has been equally acclaimed for performances on modern piano, fortepiano, clavichord, organ and harpsichord. He is widely recognized and admired for showcasing lesser-known early and contemporary composers and performing known works on unexpected instruments. “I have always been attracted to uncommon, unique repertoire, and believe the performer and level of musicianship are of first importance and not necessarily the instrument being played.”
For the Paladino label, Tsalka transcribed and recorded the Goldberg Variations on clavichord – a first on Bach’s favoured instrument. Michael states, “I wanted to examine whether it was possible to express the flamboyance and wild imagination of Bach and his variation cycle within the limited dynamic range of this instrument.” Awarded Music Web International’s Recording of the Year for 2013, critics described Tsalka’s playing on the CD as “bristling with creativity and emotion” and “a brilliant recording by an artist with a passion”, sentiments frequently reported of Tsalka’s live and recorded performances.
The Sydney performance will also see the launch of his latest CD, “Lady Huang’s Album” - a collection of contemporary compositions from Australia, Italy, Argentina and the US, all for harpsichord. The CD is published by Australia’s Wirripang Label, and was recorded at Western Sydney University.
Michael is currently the Artistic Director of the Geelvinck Fortepiano Festival in The Netherlands, and Across Bridges International Piano Summer Academy and Festival held in China and Spain. A dedicated and experienced teacher, he will also be conducting a master class for keyboard students at the Sydney Conservatorium and making a guest appearance at the 2018 New England Bach Festival.
For lovers of extraordinary musical talent, originality and authenticity, this is a must-see event!
Sat April 28, 2018 at 5.00pm Mosman Art Gallery
Thoroughbass Ensemble: Violin - Shaun Warden, Dr Shaun Ng, Viola - Tara Hashambuoy, Cello - Lucy Cormack, Angus Ryan

Pianist tickled pink to tickle the ivories with chamber orchestra in refurbished centre

Pianist Michael Tsalka will be performing the first concert at the refurbished auditorium, at the Nelson Centre of ...BRADEN FASTIER
Pianist Michael Tsalka will be performing the first concert at the refurbished auditorium, at the Nelson Centre of Musical Arts.
The first concert in the Nelson School of Music auditorium will take place at the end of April, almost five years after the building was abruptly closed.
Israeli pianist Michael Tsalka is the first musician to play in the earthquake strengthened space, which also holds the refurbished Cawthron organ.
It's also Tsalka's final concert in Nelson, as he finishes his artist in residence at the Nelson Centre of Musical Arts, formerly the Nelson School of Music.
He has won prizes and awards in Europe, the USA, Middle East, Asia and Latin America for his wide span of repertoire ranging from early Baroque music to modern piano.
Tsalka recently performed at the Boston Early Music Festival, the Forbidden City Hall in Beijing, the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
"The final concert will conclude a two-month artist-in-residency at the NCMA, in which I have performed seven chamber recitals with marvellous local musicians.
"I also have had the opportunity of working with piano teachers and students in public master classes and in private lessons."
Tsalka said chamber music had always been one of his greatest passions.
"One of the main reasons for my residency was to work and to coach the musicians of the newly formed NCMA Chamber Orchestra.
"I have been studying, playing, and recording this repertoire for many years. Entering into a musical dialogue with these fine musicians and imparting my specialised knowledge with them has been a grand pleasure."
Nelson Centre of Musical Arts director James Donaldson said they were excited about Tsalka performing the first concert in the new space.
"Michael of course was originally some years ago booked to come perform the opening ceremony.
"Building projects being what they are it's several years after that, we had to rethink it."
Tsalka is performing his final residency concert together with the newly formed Nelson School of Music Chamber Orchestra.
The concert will feature Amadeus Mozart Piano Concerto no 12 in A and Johann Sebastian Bach Brandenburg Concerto no 3 in G.
Donaldson said Tsalka was an "extraordinary musician, a really colourful and inventive performer".
"Having him here has helped us revitalise our audiences and build them up again.
"It would have been a real shame if he couldn't perform that final concert in the new auditorium."
In December 2013 the historic auditorium was closed when an assessment saw it classified as an earthquake prone building.
Four-and-a-half years and about $9.5 million dollars further, the project is now almost finished.
It focused on restoring the original facade, earthquake strengthen the auditorium and general upgrades and improvements, including an environmentally controlled storage room for the Steinway piano.
Donaldson said having the first concert in the auditorium on April 21 took some "negotiating" with contractors, but they were "pretty confident" it would be ready by then.
"There may be the odd bit of paint work to do, bit of scaffolding up front."
He said restoring the auditorium to its original state was an important part of the refurbishment, which included paintwork in a "sensitive colour" to the original design back in 1894.
"What strikes me when I walk into the foyer is the respect for the old historic heritage auditorium.
"You walk through wonderful new fresh glass doors and you'll see right down the left hand side a huge glass wall and ... behind that the original brick wall from the auditorium. It's a really neat idea."
Donaldson said he hoped the acoustics of the auditorium would not be different to what it was like before.
"They're going through a great deal of trouble to make sure the auditorium itself retains the wonderful acoustic that's been quite renowned throughout New Zealand and the world.
"A lot of time and effort is being spent to make sure it sounds as good as it always did."
Michael Tsalka is performing his final residency concert together with the newly formed Nelson School of Music Chamber Orchestra at the Nelson School of Music Auditorium on April 21 from 7:30pm to 8:30pm, no intermission. Entry by paper koha.

Harpsichord - Diana Weston & Guest Artist, Dr Michael TsalkaA review
concerning Lady Huang’ Album, recently released by Wirripang (Australia):
Written by Stephen Pleskun (editor of 'A Chronological History of Australian Composers and their Compositions' volumes 1, 2, 3 & 4), the CD presents New Music for Harpsichord by distinguished composers from Australia, Mexico, Italy, Argentina, and the U.S.A. 


“Lady Huang’s Album

New Music for Harpsichord performed by Michael Tsalka and Diana Weston

This recently released compact disc has a resemblance to Modeste Musorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ piano suite except that instead of all the works being pictorial, some are abstract. And, of course, each composer uses individual sensibilities to craft every composition.

A short introduction opens May Howlett’s pictorial ‘Tilting at Windmills’ before jaunty episodes evoke the sunny Spain depicted by Cervantes, with one harpsichord playing the regal Don Quixote and the other the querulous Sancho Panza. It is music of imagery throughout.

The ‘Variations on a Ground’ by Gabriele Tola begin gently and steadily. The harpsichord plays a muted segment before cascades of notes thunder downwards then upwards in successive variations. It is a virtuosic piece that has a musical universality to it, and could have been placed comfortably in a progressive rock album of the early 1970’s.

Elena Kat-Chernin’s ‘Green Leaf for Elke’ affords the listener a somewhat introspective contrast with a sparse, minimalistic texture that evokes placid wonderment.

‘Sonatine’ by Max Yount is a formal composition that has its first movement built on the opening motifs. It has a quasi-Baroque feel to it but clearly is composed with a 21st century sensibility.

A reflective lament opens ‘Lady Huang’s Album’ by Diana Blom before stately pentatonic melodies are accompanied sparingly to bring forth evocations of ancient Cathay.

The bird song of the Crimson Rosella is utilised in the second movement of the following eponymous piece. The other three movements re-employ musical material from Ann Carr-Boyd’s previous works, a practice that accomplished composers have used for centuries but essentially, the rewriting has to work. Ann’s sounds as though that is the way it should have been in the first place.

The harpsichords begin in a cantankerous mood expounding Leonardo Coral’s ‘Toccata’ (a genre to which the harpsichord, with its astringent sound, is suited eminently). There is respite in the short slow movement that follows but the bickering recommences before it is brought to an abrupt end.

Benjamin Thorn’s ‘Underground Currents’ are three majestic dance like compositions that envisage earlier musical times.

The final selection by Pablo Escande begins with a toccata that explodes with frenetic energy. A very lyrical piece, ‘Naive’ brings calmness after which a ‘Capricho’ takes the listener on a joy ride through multiple key changes.

The harpsichord is an instrument built on a simple principle: a set of levers that pluck tuned strings. One could be forgiven to think that there would be sameness to any work composed for it; but one would be wrong.

This recording demonstrates how diverse, interesting and engaging the instrument can be when compositions by imaginative composers are performed by outstanding practitioners”


Recent reviews concerning Naxos Classics CD release, Tibbles/Tsalka (Oct.- Feb.)

Pianist, January 2018

De classicist Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf was—zo lezen we in het tekstboekje—vanaf zijn vroegste jeugd verkikkerd op de schoonheid in de poëzie van Ovidius’ Metamorfosen. Rond 1781 vond dit een muzikale weerslag in de compositie van vijftien symfonieën—een ambitieus project. Uitgevers gaven echter niet thuis, waardoor het leeuwendeel verloren is gegaan. Alsof de componist dit voorvoelde maakte hij arrangement voor piano vierhandig, gelukkig maar, want het is interessant materiaal. Dat van Von Dittersdorf van iedere symfonie op deze cd een eigenhandige inleiding is bijgeleverd maakt het daarnaast mooi inzichte… © 2018 Pianist