Piano

Meet the lowly 18-year-old Israeli piano prodigy who is wowing the world –

Meet the lowly 18-year-old Israeli piano prodigy who is wowing the world -

When Yoav Levanon was three years old, he was very curious about his mother’s upright piano. He touched it, he says, and immediately fell in love.

He started playing…and playing…and on May 6, Levanon, now 18, released his first album with Warner Music, “A monument for Beethoven.”

He won countless accolades – from the age of five – performing on some of the world’s most prestigious stages, including Carnegie Hall in New York, the Verbier Festival in Switzerland and the San Carlo Theater in Italy.

After his performance with the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra, a music critic wrote that Levanon “is not a child prodigy. He is an eight-year-old performer of high caliber.

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At 13, he performed with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. He appeared in a film with maestro Daniel Barenboim in 2021.

Levanon is energetic, funny, modest and full of passion for music. He tells ISRAEL21c that his parents enjoy music but no one in his family is a professional musician.

He remembered “pressing stuff” on the piano. His mother, who plays the piano as a hobby, showed him “a bit of what to do”. He “thought it was so cool” and started studying the piano. Two years later, he went to his first competition and won.

“I never get nervous at competitions because I think I have to win,” he said. “Competitions have always been a way for me to perform for people. I love to play. I like to have fun with the public. What I play must have meaning for me because me and the public are only doing ‘a.

Yoav Levanon | What the composer wanted

Levanon has had a variety of teachers over the years, explaining that he learned something valuable from each because “teachers look at different music in different ways”.

“There is no one way to play,” he said. “I play composers who are not alive. The art is endless.

He said he had the opportunity to meet “so many different amazing pianists, and I take inspiration from everyone”.

When he begins to learn a piece of music, he incorporates music theory to grasp the structure and history of the piece.

“I try to understand what the composer wanted”, he explains, so that he can interpret it and “make it mine”.

Levanon has what seems like an effortless ability to memorize music. On stage, there is no score to follow; it’s all in his head.

“How do you do this?” I asked.

“I always wonder what it would be like to memorize a long speech,” he reflected. “Well, a piece of music tells a story. You understand that if it goes like this, then it will go like this. It’s like when you see a movie and you understand. Like in a sonata, once something happens and then you know it will happen in a different way. It’s really natural for me to read music and then memorize it.

American concert pianist Murray Perahia told Levanon that before a performance, “you learn a lot, then you forget it as soon as you’re on stage, then you just play the piece.”

Photo by Yoav Levanon © Nir Slakman

No jitters

Levanon lives near Tel Aviv in Hod Hasharon and has two older brothers and a younger sister. He loves his hometown, he said, because it’s “near the strawberry fields.”

He attended a regular school until seventh grade. By then he was already flying competitively and the school principal suggested that it would be best if he were homeschooled. Now he only has one math matriculation exam to complete, and then he will graduate from high school.

He practices on three pianos in his house. Of course, when he’s going to perform, he has to play on a piano he’s never touched before.

“I love the challenge of a new piano,” he said. “It’s interesting. It’s really, really nice. The room is different and the acoustics are different and I know this piano will bring out something different in me.

“Have you ever had stage fright? I asked.

“Never. I just want to play more!” he said, admitting he has the privilege of choosing what he would like to play.

To celebrate the release of his debut album, “A Monument to Beethoven”, he will give a few recitals and broadcast shows.

The album contains compositions by Chopin, Liszt, Chopin and Mendelssohn, who helped build the famous Beethoven monument in Bonn, Germany in 1845 to celebrate the composer’s 75th birthday.

Like pizza and ice cream

Levanon declined to name his favorite composers. “Each one gives you something different. It’s like pizza and ice cream! He let out an infectious laugh. “I guess it depends on your mood.”

He said he loves playing with an orchestra because “there’s something so ‘wow’ about it. Technically speaking, I’m the soloist, but we merge the ideas and I get so much inspiration from the other musicians.

Levanon would like to try conducting and composing his own music in the future, but for now he is concentrating on his piano playing. He said he tries to get up early in the morning to “get a lot done before the day starts”.

I asked him if he liked pop music.

“I like to keep an open mind about music, but classical music is still my big love because it has a lot of depth,” he said. “But I like jazz and beatbox.”

” Rhythm box ? »

“Yes. Give me a tune and I’ll do something for you.

What immediately came to mind were the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Levanon took off on a beatbox riff, doing it so seamlessly that even Beethoven himself would have clapped.

For more information on Yoav Levanon, Click here.


Diana Bletter is the author of books including A Remarkable Kindness and The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women, nominated for the National Jewish Book Award. A graduate of Cornell University and a resident of Israel since 1991, her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary and many other publications.

This article was originally published on israel21.org.