Robert (Herschel) Silverman. Pianist, teacher, b Montreal 25 May 1938; BA (Sir George Williams) 1960, B MUS performance (McGill) 1964, M MUS performance, literature (Eastman School of Music) 1965, Artist Diploma (ESM, Rochester) 1968, DMA performance (ESM, Rochester) 1970, hon D LITT (UBC) 2004. Silverman began piano study at 4 and appeared in recital at 5 and with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra at 14. After his professional debut in 1961 in Montreal and a first prize in the Quebec Music Festivals in 1961 he studied 1961-3 on a Canada Council grant at the Vienna Academy of Music. Returning to North America, he studied with Dorothy Morton at McGill University and with Cécile Genhart at the ESM. In 1967 he won first prize at the Jeunesses musicales of Canada National Competition and performed twice at Expo 67.
Silverman has performed with every major Canadian orchestra and also with the BBC, Chicago, and Sydney (Australia) symphony orchestras, the Boston Pops, and the Leningrad Philharmonic, among others, and has toured throughout Europe, North America, Australia, the Far East and the Soviet Union. He has appeared with the Borealis, Curtis, Fine Arts, Lafayette, Orford, and Purcell string quartets and performs frequently at summer festivals, including Music at Sharon, Courtenay, the Elora Festival, the Vancouver Chamber Music Festival, and the Chautauqua, Peninsula, and Ravinia Festivals in the US.
After Silverman's 1984 London recital, the critic Bryce Morrison described him as 'a player of formidable strength and mastery... his tonal resources are wonderfully rich and full... Silverman's magisterial command of both technique and idiom could hardly have been more convincing... here is a powerful, highly skilled orator of the keyboard, attributes not to be taken lightly in an age of so much impersonal expertise' (Music and Musicians, Jan 1985).
Silverman's repertoire is wide-ranging and includes 40 concertos; he has favoured the keyboard works of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. He has performed complete cycles of the piano sonatas of Beethoven (beginning in 1996), and of Mozart (2006). He also has made a strong commitment to Canadian composers. He premiered Jacques Hétu's Concerto in 1970 with the Quebec Symphony Orchestra and both performed and recorded it with the BBC Symphony Orchestra during Musicanada in 1977. With the Toronto Symphony he gave the first concert performances of Somers's Second Piano Concerto (5, 6 Dec 1978). He premiered Michael Conway Baker 's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1976) with the CBC Vancouver Orchestra, Alexina Louie'sPiano Concerto (1985) with the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Hétu's Sonata (1986) and Keith Hamel's Thrust.
Silverman's Liszt recording was awarded the 1977 Grand Prix du disque by the Budapest Liszt Society. In 1998 he became the inaugural recipient of the Paul de Hueck and Norman Walford award. His recording of Baker's piano concerto won a Juno award in 1992.
Silverman was pianist-in-residence 1967-9 at Nazareth College, Rochester, and taught at the University of California 1969-70 and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee 1970-3. He taught at the University of British Columbia 1973-2003 and was director of its School of Music 1991-5. His Vancouver pupils have included two first prize-winners of the CBC Talent Competition - Sharon Krause and David Swan (Swan was also the first winner of the S.C. Eckhardt-Gramatté prize). Silverman became artist-in-residence at Toronto's Koffler Centre for the Arts in 2002.
"The fragility of genius," Piano Quarterly, 150, Summer 1990
"It's time to face the music," Globe and Mail, 27 Mar 1993