Bright motion and forward-looking music

Pianist Michael Mizrahi to perform at University of Dayton

By Benjamin Smith
Photo credit: Steven Taylor

In these turbulent economic times, it might prove useful to pause and reflect on the relative value of, say, $15. In New York City, $15 can buy you a decent martini or Manhattan. In San Francisco, $15 can buy you a terrible shirt. But in Dayton, $15 can buy you an afternoon of incredible music at the University of Dayton’s Sears Recital Hall, where world-renowned pianist Michael Mizrahi will perform solo as part of the university’s Art Series on Sunday, Feb. 10, at 3 p.m.

Mizrahi took a few minutes to chat with the Dayton City Paper about this upcoming performance, his career and his most recent album, The Bright Motion (New Amsterdam, 2012), which was described by Muso Magazine as a “beautiful reminder that classical music is living, breathing, thriving – and evolving.”

From Switzerland to Japan, you have traveled and performed all over the world. Have you ever been to the Gem City before?

I have not been to Dayton, but am very much looking forward to my first visit! – Michael Mizrahi

Will most of your recital at the Sears Recital Hall draw from The Bright Motion?

Yes, [but] I’m also performing two works by Beethoven and a piece by Chopin. I love the juxtaposition of the old and the new on a recital program. I believe it allows both performer and audience to hear each piece on the program with fresh ears. – MM

How did The Bright Motion come together?

I commissioned four of the six new works that appear on the album. The other two were similarly composed in the last five years. All six received their world premiere recordings on the album. The album’s title comes from the two-movement piece by Mark Dancigers. I think his title fits his piece, and the album as a whole, beautifully. In my performances, I generally convey a strong sense of forward motion, and there is a certain brightness that pervades the works on the album that I attempt to bring out in my performances. – MM

One of the most striking tracks on The Bright Motion is “Faux Patterns.” Could you tell us a little more about this particular song? I hear influences ranging from Philip Glass to Bill Evans to Vangelis.

John Mayrose’s “Faux Patterns” is a hauntingly beautiful work. There is some of Philip Glass’s minimalist approach to composition reflected in John’s slowly shifting textures and colors, and influences from jazz and ambient music pervade the entire album. (Author’s Note: According to composer John Mayrose, the biggest influence on “Faux Patterns” is the first track of Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports.) – MM

What has been the general audience reaction to live performances of album?

Audience response has been very positive! In live performances, I get the chance to talk a little to the audience and describe the process of assembling and performing these works, and also to say a little about the works themselves, which generally serves to enhance the audience’s experience. The works are so accessible and many are quite virtuosic, that they make for an exciting live performance. Audience members should expect to forget that they are at “a new music concert,” or even a “piano recital,” per se, and be transported to another place. – MM

I think many people – myself included – have misconceptions about what it’s like to be a professional musician. What is a “normal” day like for Michael Mizrahi?

There is no “normal” day! If I’m not traveling, a given day in my life might include some morning practicing – solo, chamber music, concertos, new works, whatever is on my plate – and teaching a few lessons in the afternoon to my students at the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music in Appleton, Wis. Mixed in are phone calls, emails and the other aspects of logistical management that go into maintaining a performance career in the 21st century. In the evenings, I spend time with my wife and one-year-old daughter. – MM

So how did this globetrotting (and non-normal) career of yours begin?

I started playing the piano at age four, but I made the decision to become a professional pianist around the time I graduated from college. I had been playing seriously my whole life, but had been worried about turning the thing I loved into a career. I took the plunge when I decided to go to graduate school in piano performance at the Yale School of Music, and haven’t looked back since. – MM

Every artist needs new challenges. What is a new challenge you want to tackle over the next couple of years?

I’d like to continue working with emerging composers in the development of new repertoire for the piano. I was thrilled with the way the music video for The Bright Motion turned out (, and would love to pursue future projects with visual artists to explore the ways in which visual imagery can communicate deeply musical ideas. Those kinds of collaborations represent a vibrant future for classical music, and make me so excited about the career path that I’ve chosen. – MM

Michael Mizrahi performs on Sunday, Feb. 10 at the Sears Recital Hall in the Jesse Philips Humanities Center, University of Dayton, 300 College Park Ave. General admission is $15. Seniors, UD Faculty, staff and alumni and non-UD students is $10. UD students & youth is $5. For tickets, call 937.229.2545, or visit For more information, visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Benjamin Smith at

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