Preview: Philharmonia Orchestra/Giltburg, Fairfield Hall, Croydon

UK tour forpianoforte's golden boy
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The Independent Culture

At 23, the Russo-Israeli pianist Boris Giltburg seems gilded indeed: his modest manner belies a talent that knocks audiences, critics and conductors down like ninepins. An audition with Zubin Mehta led to an enduring relationship with the Israel Philharmonic; a visit to Cheltenham Festival led to a residency; an appearance at Miami piano festival led to a DVD; and ovations in Toulouse and Tokyo led to invitations to return. Several critics have hailed him as a pianistic reincarnation of Svyatoslav Richter.

His big break came when he won the Santander piano competition in 2002, but his British break should have come when, at 13, he won the Newport competition: Nimbus commissioned a CD but it was never released because the label went bust. No matter: he's now embarking on a UK tour under the baton of Mikhail Pletnev, making his belated Wigmore debut in February.

How does he feel about those Richter comparisons? "I'm surprised because I've never consciously tried to follow anyone." On the other hand, Richter is one of his keyboard gods. "He's a force of nature. Listening to him, you are amazed. But my first hero was Rubinstein. When young I was mesmerised; now I realise it was both his approach and his sound – his music speaks directly to the listener."

As does Giltburg's own. The Mussorgsky, Scriabine, and Prokofiev on his EMI Debut CD is characteristically hard-edged – he never settles for mere charm, even in the charming "Tuileries", but in Pictures at an Exhibition he displays both a silky tone and a nice ear for comedy. His Scriabin is translucent, and he finds a more compelling lyricism in Prokofiev's Eighth Sonata than anyone else today.

Giltburg spends nine months a year in his adoptive Israel, but is loyal to his native Russia: "It's my home country still, and I have a big connection to its culture." Yet his literary tastes place him here: Dickens is his favourite writer.



27 November (020-8688 9291); and Royal Festival Hall, London SE1 (0800 652 6717), 29 November

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