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Raised on the Classics

March 31, 2000|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The "Young Artist Series" at the University of Judaism is a fine case of truth in advertising. Operative word: young.

Tuesday morning's concert, the last of the series, will feature 16-year-old David Kaplan. By day, he is a bright high school student from Tarzana. At the piano, Schubert, Beethoven and Rachmaninoff run through his head and his fingers.

Kaplan moved to the Valley with his family from the East Coast a year ago, after his father, violinist Mark Kaplan, was hired at UCLA. His mother, too, is a violinist and violist, but hand problems cut her professional life short. Music has been in the house for as long as David can remember, and it was natural for him to begin with piano lessons at age 5.

As time and piano studies went on, he sought out other musicians, he said.

"It became more clear to me that this was a good way to go," he said. "Getting positive reactions from people is always encouraging. To this day, I can't be sure that I want to be a pianist because everything changes. But that's the idea right now."

Although he has performed in various settings, including the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Oxford Festival and the Seattle Chamber Music Festival, his University of Judaism program is his first as a solo recitalist. In selecting his program, he chose familiar terrain.

"With a couple of exceptions, I've been playing everything for a long time," he said. "I've been playing the Schubert impromptus since I was 9 years old. I've been playing the Prokofiev for a year. The Beethoven Sonata was something that I only recently learned. I wanted to pick a program that I'd be comfortable with."

Although he was weaned on classical music, Kaplan has bent his ear toward other music, as well.

"To feel comfortable listening to what everybody else my age does, I found that I had to build up to that," he said. "I started out listening to jazz and then rock from the 1960s and '70s--Santana and Pink Floyd. And now, I'm a bit more comfortable listening to alternative music."

Apart from Prokofiev's Sonata No. 2, Tuesday's program leans heavily on 19th century romantic repertoire, but Kaplan keeps open ears to the vistas of piano repertoire.

"Some people would call the Prokofiev contemporary, but it's not so much anymore, and I love that. There's so much music, especially for the piano, that to isolate one genre is really cowardly, in a way. I really haven't been exposed to even half of anything."

BE THERE

David Kaplan performs Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the University of Judaism, 15600 Mulholland Dr., Los Angeles. Tickets: $7.50. (310) 440-1282.

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