Pianist and composer Noam Sivan is a leading pioneer in the revival of improvisation in the classical music world. He improvises fugues and four-movement sonatas in his piano recitals, conducts orchestral and choral improvisations, and collaborates on multidisciplinary improvisations with musicians, singers, dancers, and actors. His solo album Ambiro’s Journey, the first ever piano improvisation studio album featuring more than 70 minutes of continuous music recorded in a single unedited take, has been described as “a new marker in the evolution of improvisation”. Over 50 of his compositions have been performed in Europe, North America, and Asia, including operas, scores for ballet, vocal music, orchestral and chamber works, and evening-long multimedia shows. Born in Haifa, Israel, in 1978, Noam Sivan was a Director of Improvisation at the Curtis Institute of Music and a faculty member at the Juilliard School. Currently he is Professor of Piano Improvisation at the State University of Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart, where he will open in October 2020 a Master’s degree in classical piano improvisation, one of the first such programs worldwide.
Live improvisation features prominently in Noam’s solo piano recitals. The improvisations can proceed in numerous paths: be entirely free-flowing and spontaneous, follow a narrative story, encompass a wide range of musical styles and languages, relate to visual arts or natural imagery, respond to known tunes or written compositions, interact with the audience, and more. In all instances, the listening experience is of music created and communicated in real-time, a celebration of being in the moment.
Noam Sivan has premiered his own Piano Concerto in the triple role of soloist, conductor & composer, performed the Asian premiere of the Viktor Ullmann piano concerto with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra in Manila, and has appeared as pianist-conductor in concertos by Mozart – with his own cadenzas, and Bach – concerto for four keyboards and orchestra. Noam’s performance of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” encored by his live improvisation on the piece was broadcast on Israeli national TV. His solo recital series Chopin and Improvisations has won high praise: “Tonight we were treated to an exceptional piano recital by one of the brightest stars in the constellation of young world-class pianists.”
As a solo pianist, he has presented The Art of Improvisation at the International Keyboard Institute and Festival (IKIF), International Society for Improvised Music (ISIM), McGill University in Montreal, Canandaigua LakeMusic Festival, Aldwell Center in Jerusalem, and Juilliard Doctoral Forum. He was the only improvisation expert from North America invited to perform and lecture at the all-European Erasmus Improvisation Intensive Project in The Netherlands, hosted under the auspices of the European Union. His baroque improvisation was broadcast to a worldwide audience of 16,000 registered users in the first-ever online Music History Course hosted by the Curtis Institute on the internet platform Coursera.
Additional solo piano recital programs have included The Piano Etude from Chopin to Ligeti; Ravel and Water Imagery; Ballades, Serenades, and Dreams; and more. His solo playing of excerpts from sixty different Chopin compositions is featured on the iPhone application Chopin Alarm Clock. He has played chamber music at Barge Music, Weill Recital Hall, 92nd Street Y, and Steinway Hall in New York; Ravinia, Kefar Blum, Summertrios and Waterville Valley festivals; Serenata Series in London, Ontario; DeVos Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan; Pinnacle Series in Scottsdale, Arizona; Stadtinitiative in Vienna, Austria; Forest School Theatre in London, England; Jerusalem Music Center; and other venues.
Noam Sivan’s compositions include the opera Fruits of Folia produced by the Mannes Opera & Orchestra, Nocturne for Orchestra performed by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, a String Sextet commissioned by the New York City Ballet’s Choreographic Institute, and The Cabin of Loneliness premiered by Members of the Israel Philharmonic with Thalamus Voices conducted by the composer. The 45-minute oratorio Death and Birth in Hebrew and Arabic was premiered by the Tel-Aviv Soloists Chamber Orchestra with vocal soloists, mixed chorus, and the composer playing the solo piano part. His music has been presented at venues including Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, New-York Philharmonic Biennial Festival, Ravinia and Marlboro Festivals, Salle Cortot in Paris, Zipper Hall in Los Angeles, Pickman Hall in Boston, the Royal Conservatoire of Brussels, Cultural Center of the Philippines, Chicago Cultural Center, Tanna Schulich Hall in Montreal, Scotia Festival in Canada, Jerusalem Theatre, and Tel-Aviv Museum. Noam Sivan’s compositions have also been performed by the Horszowski Trio, Momenta Quartet, Link Ensemble, Moran Vocal Ensemble, Duquesne Contemporary Ensemble, New York Miniaturist Ensemble, Jerusalem Saxophone Quartet, Piano4, and Fourtissimo Piano Quartet, as well as by Jennifer Koh, Anthony McGill, Charles Neidich, Tanja Becker-Bender, Laurie Rubin, Yael Weiss, Hung-Wei Huang, Noah Getz, Jacqueline Leclair, Steven Dibner, Maya Hartman, and Azi Schwartz. His innovative solo-violin transcription of the Liszt B minor Sonata received admiring responses from noted violinists Ruggiero Ricci, Vadim Repin, and Gidon Kremer, among others. Its world premiere, by Giora Schmidt at the Ravinia Festival, has been viewed online more than 80,000 times. Vera Vaidman’s recording of Noam’s Liszt transcription was chosen as “CD of the Month” by Czech Music Direct. Choreographers who have created dance works to Noam Sivan’s music include Idan Sharabi, Adam Hendrickson, Lucy Van Cleef, and Michelle Mola. His music has been broadcast on over 50 radio stations, featured in a special composer-portrait concert at the Greenwich Arts House in New York City, and recorded for Bridge, Koch, and Romeo Records.
Noam Sivan has held two week-long residencies at the Aldwell Center for Piano and Musicianship in Jerusalem (Hon. President, Murray Perahia), teaching piano master-classes and giving improvisation workshops. He was a composer-in-residence at the Canandaigua LakeMusic Festival and a guest composer at the University of New Mexico Composers’ Symposium, performing his own music as pianist and conductor, and giving master-classes and workshops. His master-classes and lectures were also hosted by Keshet Eilon International String Mastercourse; University of Toronto; New York University; University of Michigan; McGill University; University of California Los Angeles; Royal Conservatoire The Hague; City University of New York Graduate Center; Music Institute of Chicago; State University of New York at Stony Brook; The Israeli Choral Association Hallel; Fourth and Fifth International Schenker Symposia; Music Theory Society of New York State; International Mannes Institute for Advanced Studies in Music Theory on Schoenberg; Queens College; Hochstein Music School; Young Israel Philharmonic Orchestra; and other programs and venues.
Since October 2019, Noam Sivan is Professor of Piano Improvisation at the State University of Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart, where he is founder and director of the HMDK Improvisation Ensemble. Previously he was Director of Improvisation at the Curtis Institute of Music, having founded there the first Performance Certificate in Improvisation for classically trained musicians in North America, and was also a faculty member at the Juilliard School and at Mannes College. He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Juilliard, as well as previous degrees from Mannes and from the Jerusalem Academy. His teachers have included Milton Babbitt, Carl Schachter, Edward Aldwell, Richard Goode, Robert Cuckson, Menachem Zur, Vadim Monastirsky, and Manuela Sivan. Currently, Noam Sivan lives in Stuttgart, Germany, with his wife Maya and their three children.