Piano duo expresses how music shatters cultural barriers with lively performance

In its final show of the season, Geneseo’s Limelight and Accents presented the piano duo Duo Amal on Saturday March 26 in Wadsworth Auditorium. The two pianists—Yaron Kohlberg and Bishara Haroni—collaborated to evoke emotional music that also promoted a unified spirit.

The duo’s name derives from the Arabic word for hope: “amal.” Kohlberg and Haroni met in Jerusalem and after performing their first concert together in 2008, they decided to form a permanent Israeli-Palestinian piano duo.

Kohlberg is from Israel and has been awarded many international prizes, including first prize in the Shostakovich Competition in Hanover and the Parnassos International Competition in Monterrey. He has performed in many prestigious venues including New York City’s Carnegie Hall and Moscow’s Kremlin. Kohlberg has also appeared as a soloist in groups such as the Jerusalem and Haifa Symphony Orchestras.

Haroni hails from Palestine and has also performed as a soloist, most recently as a member of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Haroni plays in many international chamber music festivals and has played with concertmasters Guy Braunstein and Daishin Kashimoto of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

The pair has performed together in many locations all over the world. Their purpose in playing is to show their audiences that music can surpass any political or national differences between countries.

For Geneseo’s show, the duo performed five songs, all with different meanings, intensity levels and from different time periods. They began with Franz Schubert’s “Fantasie in F minor D. 940.” As Kohlberg explained before the piece, “Fantasie in F minor” is meant to be played by both musicians on one piano, allowing the players to mirror the connectedness of the music.

Avner Dorman’s “Karsilama” followed Schubert’s piece. The duo played on separate pianos in a rhythm of 9/8, which made the piece fast-paced. The key changes throughout also kept the audience on their toes.

Next was Sergey Prokofiev’s “Symphony No.1 in D, Op. 25, ‘Classical.’” Kohlberg and Haroni were visibly emotionally invested in the graceful and majestic symphony, with their hands mirroring each other with each stroke of a piano key.

The duo commissioned a friend of theirs—Samir Odde Tamimi—for the next piece, “Amal.” The two pianists changed the look and sound to a classic piano piece by plucking the strings of the instrument for parts of the song, adding a lot of mystery and excitement to the piece.

The concert concluded with one of Kohlberg and Haroni’s favorites: Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Suite No. 1 Op. 5.” Kohlberg compared the first movement to a peaceful boat on the water and described the second movement as a deeper and more dramatic story. 

It was incredible seeing how the two musicians could play with such passion and force in one moment and such peace and tranquility in the next. In times of intensity, they would practically jump out of their seats as they played, whereas they would move their bodies in tune and in rhythm with the music in the more relaxed parts.

Kohlberg and Haroni have palpable chemistry that is clearly demonstrated through their interactions during their impressive performance. Together, they transcend not only the limits of musical talent, but of friendship and partnership as well.