Israeli ambassador on the ivories

While he no longer resides in the country full-time, world-class concert pianist Victor Goldberg says that wherever he roams, he sees himself as an ambassador of Israel. Concert pianist Victor Goldberg spends considerable time on the road, performing in cities …

While he no longer resides in the country full-time, world-class concert pianist Victor Goldberg says that wherever he roams, he sees himself as an ambassador of Israel.

Concert pianist Victor Goldberg
Concert pianist Victor Goldberg spends considerable time on the road, performing in cities worldwide.

For a charitable donation of 76 euros, anyone with Internet access can purchase a live tutorial from Israeli concert pianist Victor Goldberg, the newest executive professor at the online Academy for Classical Music of Lions Club Vienna MozART.

“This is something very unique and new, allowing anybody to get exposed to music and have a lesson with a famous performing artist,” Goldberg tells ISRAEL21c. “This will allow me to teach while traveling.”

The 33-year-old pianist certainly spends considerable time on the road. He is in the midst of a months-long Far East tour that started in China and was extended, at the request of Israel’s embassies in the Philippines, Myanmar and Thailand.

When he returns, he will play engagements in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland. Last season, he had a recital at Carnegie Hall in New York and an appearance at the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts in Chicago. He has also played in Canada, Tel Aviv, Germany, Kiev and Tenerife.

“I perform in many cities and I feel I represent Israel everywhere I go,” he says.

In Israel at least twice a year

Goldberg and his family immigrated to Israel from Ukraine in 1991. He received his musical foundation from Mark Shaviner and the late Alexander Volkov of the Rubin Academy of Music at Tel Aviv University and then went on to earn degrees at New York’s Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music, and most recently at Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.

Now residing in the New York City borough of Queens, Goldberg spends time in Israel at least twice a year, sometimes for extended periods. “Actually, I had planned to be in Israel now, but this Asian tour turned into a long trip,” he says. “I don’t know when I’m returning; maybe in the late winter or early spring.”

His current tour began with an invitation from a professor in Beijing who had heard Goldberg perform in New York. Following his appearances at Tianjin Concert Hall and Wuhan Qintai Concert Hall there in July, Israeli ambassadors in Southeast Asian countries began to ply him with invitations.

“I was not [previously] aware that the Israeli embassies and the Foreign Ministry have a mandate to promote Israeli culture and cultural cooperation,” Goldberg confesses in a long-distance interview from Hong Kong.

Few preconceptions about Israel

Goldberg has performed in Manila, Philippines; Yangon and Mandalay; Myanmar (Burma); and Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand. He was recently interviewed on Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) and agreed to make a recording for its classical music station next January.

A frequent headliner for benefit concerts, Goldberg was happy to present some classical selections on an electronic keyboard at a Buddhist refuge for 6,000 children in Mandalay.

“I couldn’t play most of my pieces on such a small keyboard, so I played two works by Mozart and Tchaikovsky,” he recounts. “Most of the teachers and kids had never heard of these composers, and their reaction was very touching.”

The Israeli officials in these countries impressed upon Goldberg the importance of showing the world that Israel is not only about conflict. He found that the Far East is, however, generally free of anti-Semitism and the people he met knew little about the Jewish state. “These countries have many millions of people, so you reach masses who don’t have any preconceptions about Israel,” he remarks.

Communication through the keys

Fluent in Russian, Hebrew, and English, Goldberg communicated with his enthusiastic audiences more through his talented fingers than via speech.

“I don’t come from a musical family,” he reveals. “Music was just part of my general education. But my parents realized I had a special connection to music, and when I won my first competition at the age of 13, that reinforced that I should continue.”

His skills were honed by such renowned pianists as Jerome Lowenthal, Alexander Shtarkman, and Constance Keene. Goldberg was the first instrumentalist in the history of the Manhattan School of Music to be awarded the prestigious Artist Diploma in Performance. He also won the Pro Musicis International Award, the Artist Recognition Award at the International Keyboard Festival in New York, the World Congress of Russian Jewry award, and first prize at the Arianne Katcz Piano Competition.

Goldberg spends time at the keys every day that he’s not in transit. When his schedule allows, he indulges his passions for cinema, literature as well as Jewish history and religion.

About Abigail Klein Leichman

Abigail Klein Leichman is a writer and associate editor at ISRAEL21c. Prior to moving to Israel in 2007, she was a specialty writer and copy editor at a daily newspaper in New Jersey and has freelanced for a variety of newspapers and periodicals since 1984.