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Musicians enjoy rare chance to collaborate

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It often strikes me when I see a concert artist walk onstage at a performance how poised and calm they seem before they begin to play or sing. Whether seated at a piano or waiting during their musical introduction, their steely focus and patience is something to behold.

It's not only the possible nerves and anticipation the musician might be experiencing, but what's gone on behind the scenes to get them where they are that boggles the mind. Besides the decades of training and countless practice and rehearsal hours, there are often hectic performance schedules and lengthy travel agendas to contend with.

Take violinist Tim Fain, who will be playing opening night at Virtuosi Concerts with pianist Michael Boriskin this Saturday, for instance.

When we did our interview, he had just stepped off the stage after playing with the Orquestra Petrobrás Sinf¥nica in Rio de Janeiro. He was scheduled to perform the following day with another Brazilian orchestra, the Barra Mansa Symphony. Next month, the 36-year-old is off to Melbourne, Australia, with his solo multi-media show Portals, which, upon return to his native U.S.A., he will continue touring. In between all this he is coming to Winnipeg.

Michael Boriskin may not tour quite as much these days, but his schedule is as busy as ever, and the diversity is what makes it especially impressive. He is a piano soloist, prolific recording artist, chamber musician, writer and educator and holds down the artistic director and executive director positions of Copland House, a creative centre dedicated to American musical heritage and to fostering greater public awareness and appreciation of that nation's composers and their work.

"I gave up sleep a long time ago," laughed the vibrant 60-year-old in a telephone interview from his home in Bedford, New York. "It takes a lot of compartmentalization," he said of his very full life.

"I enjoy it. I was never interested in 'just' being a touring performer. I love performing, but the idea of spending life on the road doing concerts wasn't for me. I had too many interests to do a selection of music day in and day out. I enjoy working with people, forming collaborations."

His collaboration with Fain is one Boriskin obviously enjoys. "Tim is a wonderfully dynamic and musical artist. We met while doing a musical project at a summer music festival in Utah. We hit it off and really enjoyed working together. But our schedules go in such different directions -- we take every chance to work together."

Fain, on the other hand, thrives on touring. "I love to play as many concerts as I can and a wide variety of them," the Curtis Institute graduate said via email. "Whether it's soloist with orchestra, playing chamber music, or doing recital work, or collaboration with an artist from a different genre... it's all great.

"Recently I've been doing a great deal of touring with my show Portals, in which I explore the yearning for human connection in the digital age with collaborators on screen, including Benjamin Millepied, who directed and choreographed a dance film as the centrepiece of the evening along with a work I commissioned from Philip Glass and parts of Leonard Cohen's poetry collection Book of Longing... It has been a thrill creating and touring with this... so I do spend a lot of time on the road. But I also just spent the entire month of August at home with my wife and three-year-old daughter, which was a nice change."

You may not know his name, but you've likely seen and heard Fain before, as he appeared onscreen and in the soundtrack of the 2010 hit film Black Swan. "I worked with Benjamin Millepied at New York City Ballet," Fain said getting the gig. "He asked me if I would like to be part of a new Darren Aronofsky movie... Having attended Juilliard and spent some time with dancers over the years, a psychological thriller about a ballerina seemed a perfectly natural mix of elements, not to mention my huge respect for Natalie Portman, and so I said yes. It was a really memorable time."

Fain and Boriskin, with input from Virtuosi artistic director Harry Strub, have put together some top-notch repertoire for Saturday's concert, entitled Charisma. It includes the emotive Franck Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano, Beethoven's melody-rich Spring Sonata (which Fain recalls first playing for his Grade 5 class at lunchtime in the cafeteria) some Brahms and Bach and American composer Pierre Jalbert's 2010 work, Wild Ambrosia. " He is a gifted composer with a distinctive voice," Boriskin said of Jalbert, "He writes very compelling music."

Boriskin, who also has a broadcasting background, plans to provide introductory remarks at the concert. "I enjoy trying to make the whole concert experience more inviting and casual," he said. "It leads to better receptivity in listeners and personalizes the experience. This is, after all, a decidedly human endeavour. What I'm doing isn't merely a job -- these things are my passion."

Between Fain's love of concertizing and Boriskin's passion, the audience should be in for a treat. The concert is at 8 p.m. at Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall in the University of Winnipeg. Tickets are $33/adults and seniors, $15/students, $5/ high school, available at 786-9000 or

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 20, 2012 D5

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