BY KYLE MACMILLAN
Today’s classical music world probably boasts more top-drawer piano soloists than ever before, but Inon Barnatan does not fear the competition. In fact, he doesn’t see it as competition at all.
“As I pianist, I feel we’re all so different,” the Israeli-born virtuoso said. “I never believed that if somebody is getting a concert, they’re getting a concert that could have been mine. Or vice versa. feel like if you do what you believe in and if you’re good enough, there will be a spot for you.”
Barnatan, 33, who returns Aug. 26 to the Ravinia Festival for a recital and appears Oct. 28 as part of the Symphony Center Presents Chamber Series, believes it is harmful for artists to look over their shoulders and worry about their counterparts’ success.
“I look at my friends and people who are doing well [in the field], and we are friendly with each other,” he said. “We feel like we actually get more out of learning from one another and collaborating than from cutting each other’s throats.”
Competition or not, the fast-rising soloist has little to fret. He has carved out a niche for himself with consistently intelligent, insightful playing and an uncommon appetite for new and unconventional works, often imaginatively interspersed on his programs with older classics.
This interplay of the old and new is evident on his latest album, “Darknesse Visible” (Avie Records). It mixes contemporary and classic French and English works that were all inspired by literary or other musical compositions and all display elements of both lightness and darkness.
In addition to works by Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy, it includes Ronald Stevenson’s Fantasy on Benjamin Britten’s opera, “Peter Grimes,” and Thomas Ades’ 1992 piano adaptation of John Dowland’s 1610 song, “In Darkness Let Me Dwell.”
“I found it very interesting,” Barnatan said of the Ades piece, “how he can make something modern and fresh-sounding without changing a single note or rhythm from a song that was written 400 years ago.”