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Faculty and Students of the Toradze Piano Studio Kick Off the 2008-2009 Concert Season

Published: Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Updated: Monday, September 14, 2009 14:09

By Michael Snyder

On September 5, Martin Endowed Professor in Piano Alexander Toradze, soprano Alicia Purcell, and members of the Toradze Piano Studio performed compositions by Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Lisz, Sergei Prokofiev, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Robert Schumann.

The concert took place in the Main Auditorium, in Northside Hall, on the IU South Bend campus. One of the two highlights of the evening was Alexander Toradze's performance of Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No. 3 in d minor" (op. 30), in a two-piano arrangement by the composer, in which Toradze, the first piano, was joined by Nikita Abrosimov, the second piano. Uncharacteristic of Rachmaninoff - who is known for compositions that are defined by soaring, lyric melodies - "Piano Concerto No. 3 in d minor" consists of numerous melodic fragments. Nevertheless, the work bears Rachmaninoff's usual melancholy characteristics, the most memorable of which, in this piece, are turbulent moments that are contrasted with sections that are of a reflective nature.

The work challenged Toradze, who is a lyric performer, to play more aggressively. In doing so, however, he didn't change his tone. It remained smooth and legato, even when the dynamic level rose from one of his trademark multi-level pianissimos to a climatic double forte, before returning to a diminutive soft sound.

Abrosimov, who served as Toradze's "orchestra," did much to enhance Toradze's performance. He helped set the mood for the piece, knowing when to pull back for Toradze, as well as when to build up for its more stentorian moments . The other highlight of the concert was the performance of coloratura soprano Alicia Purcell, who sang five romances composed by Rachmaninoff: "Do Not Sing, My Beauty" (op. 4, no. 4), "How Peaceful this Place" (op. 21, no. 7), "Vocalise" (op. 34, no. 14), "A Dream" (op. 8, no. 5), and "Spring Streams" (op. 14, no. 11).

Most memorable were Purcell's performances of the first and third pieces. The first romance, which is also known by the title "O Cease Thy Singing, Maiden Fair," in a translation by legendary Irish tenor John McCormack, is generally associated with the tenor voice. Purcell's sensitive phrasing and light timbre, however, served the piece well, enabling her to make the song her own.

Probably the best-known of Rachmaninoff's vocal works, and the most challenging on the program, was the third piece, "Vocalise," which Purcell sang with grace and elegance, floating her sound effortlessly throughout the stratospheric tessitura of the piece, approaching the climactic high C-sharp with absolute ease. After singing all five romances, she reprised "Vocalise" as an encore.

The concert was rich in outstanding performances. Nikita Abrosimov, given the opportunity to be the "only piano," offered an exquisite interpretation of Prokofiev's "Piano Sonata no. 3 in A Minor" (op. 28), playing the work with a fierce energy and a passionate lyricism. Mariam Lominadze, who opened the concert with an early Schumann piece, "Abegg Variations in F Major" (op. 1), played with elegance, offering listeners a varied palette of tonal colors. In a performance of Beethoven's "Piano Sonata no. 30 in E Major" (op. 109), Elisabed Imerlishvili caught the intimacy and mood of the piece, making the necessary changes in her tone to accommodate both the composition's less - and more- complicated textures. Tinatin Saralidze gave a bravura performance of Liszt's "Mephisto-Valse," playing with a refined tone that caught the many nuances of the work.

This was the first 2008-2009 academic year music event produced by the Ernestine M. Raclin School of the Arts. If this concert was any indication of what the school has to offer this year, members of IU South Bend and Michiana communities will have much to which they can look forward.

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