February 2005

Young Stars of the Young Century

The Vladimir Spivakov International Charity Foundation Exclusive Gala Performance
presented by: Show One Productions

February 27, 2005 George Weston Recital Hall Toronto
Report by Joyce Corbett with photos by Roger Humbert

The program notes say “All the concerts of the Spivakov Foundation… astound the public and end with great standing ovations”. This concert was no exception. When all the performers came out to take their final bows, the host of the program, Michael Kramer from Classical 96.3 FM, advised us, “hold on to your programmes, international superstars are everywhere on this stage”.

Among other charitable work, the Spivakov Foundation supports talented young musicians in their studies and provides them with opportunities to play on national and international stages. One Armenian and six Russian soloists were handpicked for this first Canadian concert. (Tigran Muradian—cello, Elisaveta Ivanova—piano, Ivan Kobilsky—oboe, Evgeny Novikov—saxophone, Victoria Margasuk—violin, Artem Belov—domra, Anastasia Petanova—flute). They were joined in the program by three of Canada’s most promising young musicians, violinist Zubaida Azezi, pianist Michael Man and cellist Eric Han. Both halves of the program concluded with three pieces from the delightful Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus.

Victoria Margasuk
The program was wonderfully varied, with pieces from over twenty different composers, lots of Russians of course, Bizet, Chopin and Saint-Saëns. The Canadian violinist, Zubaida Azezi chose a piece each from two challenging composers, Bartok and Dvorak.

Elisaveta Ivanova opened the program on piano with Rachmanoff’s Prelude Gis moll op.32 N.12. She proved to be not only talented but a stalwart performer. When her music was closed by a draft, she played on from memory until she found the chance to reach up and reopen it. Then the draft repeated its performance, but if you had been listening with your eyes shut, you would never have known from her playing that anything had happened. She provided excellent accompaniment for five of the other soloists, with the assistance of a page-turner.

It was a treat to listen to Evgeny Novikov and appreciate his speed, his fluidity, and the lovely, mellow tone of his saxophone. Classical saxophone solos are not commonly heard in Toronto. The cellist Tigran Muradian, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes passionate was followed by the light, bright voices of the Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus. They had a lot of fun singing Three Rodents with Defective Visual Perception in which the agriculturalist’s wife severs the appendages of said rodents with a kitchen utensil. These lyrics were alternated with the translation into Three Blind Mice.

Already impressed by the first half of the program, I was blown away by the second half. Michael Man with his wide, capable hands, fingers flying through the rapid passages of Chopin’s Scherzo N.3 op.39 with a flair for the dramatic; the flawless, moving violin of Victoria Margasuk, fluid as silk, the high notes so pure and clear.

Next up was Artem Belov, a virtuosic player of an unusual instument. The domra is a wooden instrument about the size of a mandolin with steel strings, fixed frets and a rounded back. The tremolo technique, the rapid movement of the pick back and forth across the strings is the main technique used to play it. The domra was originally an instrument of street musicians or “skomorokhi” and was banned by both the church and the state at various times in its history because the strolling balladeers who played it liked to poke fun at those institutions. Artem played a concerto from his own hand and two pieces based on folk and gypsy melodies by A. Tsigankov. As he moved into a heavy 1, 2 rhythm, the audience spontaneously clapped along, the tempo increasing until a change of time silenced the clappers and the piece moved in a new direction.

Artem Belov and Anastasia Petanova

Eric Han, a wonderful cellist, is also wonderful to watch. Everything about him is expressive. His face, hands, the lift of his eyebrows, the graceful way he lowers his bow to the side during a pause while the notes of Chopin spill forth like jewels from the piano of accompanist Todd Yaniw, and Han ghost-fingers the neck preparing for re-entry. Han is not a self-contained performer. It seems that his spirit overflows and he is moved to pick a few strings or tap the cello with his bow during the breaks in the music filled with the piano.

Anastasia Petanova takes the stage in a full length shining red dress with a full skirt. She looks nervous, very emotional, blots her palms on her dress and lifts the flute to her mouth. She is an exquisite bird treating us to a taste of paradise. She plays Fantaisie Brillante Sur Carmen. At times, she sounds like two flutes, one playing the melody and one the accompaniment. I didn’t want the piece to finish.

The Children’s Chorus follows with more Bizet, Avec la garde montante, a piece from the Hobbit and Niska banja, a traditional Serbian piece. The surprise treat? The visiting musicians all come back on stage for a rendition of Moscow Nights. At the end, all the performers are on stage as well as Show One Producer Svetlana Dvoretskaia who worked hard to present this wonderful afternoon of music. Flowers are everywhere.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Joyce Corbett
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Roger Humbert
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