Conversation With Pianist Ammiel Bushakevitz
On His New Joint Album ‘ECHOES’

Duets for Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano & Piano (Katharina Konradi, Catriona Morison, Ammiel Bushakevitz)

'ECHOES' Duets for Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano & Piano album cover

© Deutsche Grammophon

Pianist Ammiel Bushakevitz, of Israeli, American, and South African descent, is an awarded pianist and passionate in vocal collaborations. He has a busy performing schedule and projects with different singers. One of his current projects is the coming release of his new joint album, “Echoes,” with soprano Katharina Konradi and mezzo-soprano Catriona Morison. In this interview, Ammiel shares with us the album and his love of vocal work.

Hi Ammiel, would you like to introduce yourself?

Ammiel Bushakevitz

Ammiel Bushakevitz © Florian Huber

I was born in Jerusalem, Israel, but I grew up in South Africa. My father is an American; he met my mother in Israel, and my grandparents are from Lithuania and Germany. When I was in South Africa, I was very fortunate to study with professors who had studied in Germany. One of my greatest mentors is my professor of art song, Heinrich van der Mescht. He inspired me to develop my love of vocal collaboration.

In addition to his studies in South Africa, Ammiel also studied with Phillip Moll at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater “Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy” in Leipzig, Germany, and with Jean-Frédéric Neuburger and Jeff Cohen at the Conservatoire Nationale Supérieur de Musique in Paris, France.

I am fascinated by the album’s diverse program, which includes Lieder by some of the Romantic period’s most prominent composers, including Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms. It also features music by women composers Mel Bonis, Pauline Viardot, and Maria Malibran.

Catriona Morison

Catriona Morison © Andrew Low

It was actually Catriona Morison’s idea. She conceived the program and proposed it to us. Katharina Konradi and I thought it was fantastic. However, we had to shorten it a little bit because it was too long for one CD.

It is the first album that Ammiel recorded with two singers. When I asked Ammiel about how different working with two singers versus working with only one singer, he responded:

There is a difference because, as a pianist, it’s a challenge to be together with the vowels and to breathe together with the singer. But with the two singers, their breathing was different most of the time. I am more of an orchestra and provide more of a carpet for them to dance on me; it’s slightly more like the role of a conductor because a conductor who works with the singer is also leading and following at the same time, so one needs to know when to give time for a break for breathing and when to go forward so that they can get through phrases without running out of breath. It is really fun to work with such different vocal timbres, too, and I think their voices fit really well together. It is a wonderful challenge for me to adapt my pianistic colors to their voices.

When I asked him if he had a favorite piece on the album, he said yes.

Perhaps my favorite piece on the album is one of the strangest as well. It’s Faure’s Pleurs d’Or Op. 72. It was based on a beautiful poem (Albert Samain’s Au jardin de l’infante). The piece is very typical of Faure’s middle and late styles, in which his composition involves a very special harmonic language. Pleurs d’Or is invocative of gentle raindrops falling – or are they perhaps tears?

Katharina Konradi

Katharina Konradi ©

The two singers of this album, Kyrgyz soprano Katharina Konradi and Scottish mezzo-soprano Catriona Morison, are good friends. They met in Berlin and developed a friendship through the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists Scheme.

Ammiel mentioned that he had worked with the singers before recording the album. Following the release of the album, Ammiel will have a series of performances with the two singers.

We will be doing a kind of a tour of the presentation of the album, including at the Heidelberger Frühling Festival, the Madrid Ciclo de Lied, and the Konzerthaus of Vienna.

The album, released by CAvi in collaboration with Deutsche Grammophon, is available on all digital service providers worldwide from 17 May 2024. The UK CD release will follow on 14 June 2024.

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