Harmony and Heritage Unite at Pasadena Conservatory’s Russian Musical Mastery Showcase

Published on Feb 23, 2024

In a recent evening that traversed the emotional and geographical landscapes of Russian classical music, the Pasadena Conservatory of Music presented an engaging program that delicately balanced the lyrical with the avant-garde, and tradition with innovation. The event, which unfolded in the conservatory’s intimate performance space, was a testament to the depth of Russian composers’ contributions to the classical music repertoire, as well as the talent and versatility of the faculty and guest performers.

Mariné Ter-Kazaryan, a distinguished faculty member at the conservatory, set the tone for the evening with a nuanced rendition of a selection of art songs by Rimsky-Korsakov. These pieces, known for their intricate melding of poetry and melody, were brought to life through Ter-Kazaryan’s expressive vocal performance, accompanied by the skilled pianist Gayane Simonyan. Their collaboration underscored Rimsky-Korsakov’s sensitivity to the human voice and his profound understanding of the poetic narrative.

The program then transitioned to Alexander Glazunov’s “Rêverie orientale,” performed by a quintet comprising faculty members Tereza Stanislav, Tomsen Su (a Pasadena Conservatory of Music alumnus from the class of 2016), and Micah Wright, alongside guests Ana Landauer and Robert Brophy. This piece, characterized by its evocative melodies and harmonies, showcased Glazunov’s ability to weave Russian musical idioms with the exotic colors and textures of Eastern music, creating a lush tapestry of sound.

The evening continued with Ter-Kazaryan’s rendition of two more art songs, this time by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov, another composer who adeptly combined Russian musical elements with influences from other cultures. The ensemble of Stanislav, Landauer, Su, and Brophy returned to the stage to perform the final two movements of Alexander Borodin’s String Quartet No. 2. This work, renowned for its lyrical beauty and rich harmonic language, was rendered with both precision and passion by the performers, highlighting Borodin’s romantic sensibility and his mastery of the string quartet form.

Providing a stark contrast to the rest of the program, Micah Wright performed Igor Stravinsky’s “Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet.” This selection, with its angular melodies and rhythmic complexities, offered a glimpse into the innovative spirit of Stravinsky and his departure from the romantic traditions of his predecessors.

The concert concluded with Vatché Mankerian’s powerful interpretation of Sergei Prokofiev’s Seventh Piano Sonata. Known as one of Prokofiev’s most dissonant and technically challenging works, Mankerian tackled the sonata with virtuosity and emotional intensity, effectively conveying the tumultuous spirit of the piece and its historical context.

The evening’s program not only showcased the rich tapestry of Russian classical music but also highlighted the performers’ technical excellence and deep musicality. The reception that followed, featuring Russian-inspired cuisine from Julienne Fine Foods, provided an opportunity for audience members to engage with the musicians, including event host Brian Lauritzen, in a more informal setting, discussing the performances and the enduring legacy of Russian music.

The next performance in the Musical Interludes series is a program of the music of Nadia Boulanger. It will be held on Saturday, May 4, beginning at 4:00 p.m. for tickets or more information contact the Pasadena Conservatory of Music’s Melissa Froehlich at (626) 683-3355 ext. 107 or mfroehlich@pasadenaconservatory.org.


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