Pianist Vladimir Feltsman will perform at the Mondavi Center’s Jackson Hall on Saturday, Apr. 24 at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $17.50 for students.
Feltsman will play Beethoven’s “Sonata No.8 in C Minor,” J.S. Bach’s “Parita No.1 in B-Flat Major” and “Four Ballads” by Frederic Chopin at Saturday’s show.
Born in Moscow in 1952, Feltsman currently lives in upstate New York. His musical history can be traced to his childhood, when Feltsman debuted with the Moscow Philharmonic at the age of 11. He studied music at prestigious schools such as Moscow Tchaikovsky State Conservatory of Music and the Moscow and Leningrad Conservatries before he began touring and winning awards – one of which was the Grand Prix at the Marguerite Long International Piano Competition in Paris in 1971.
Feltsman carries a background of triumphs and successes, as well as artistic restriction and exile. A hero fighting in the name of artistic freedom, Feltsman was banned from performing in Russia after applying for a Visa to escape the Soviet Union’s restrictions on musical creativity. He spent eight years in exile before he was finally able to escape to the United States. Upon arriving in 1987, he performed his first North American recital to a receptive crowd at the Reagan White House. Feltsman soon made a name for himself as a major pianist in both North America and around the world.
“[Feltsman has] a very interesting personal story, as far as a pianist immigrating to this country and being virtually kicked out of Russia because of his artistic choices,” said Philip Daley, events manager for the Department of Music. “For him to come to the U.S. and to be able to do the kinds of performances he’s always wanted to do, that’s a big deal. People who have stories like his will always give fantastic performances because the music matters to them so much.”
Assistant professor of music Sandra Graham also commented on Feltsman’s success and the symbolic effect his emigration has had on countering limitations.
“I heard Vladimir Feltsman play Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” in Reading, PA, shortly after he came to the U.S. in 1987,” Graham said in an e-mail interview. “It was a small theater in a fairly small town, but a huge performance: muscular, delicate, sensitive, exciting. Afterward, the mayor presented him with a key to the city – a gesture that perhaps held more meaning than usual given Feltsman’s long struggle.”
One of Feltsman’s recent projects includes a series of concerts presenting the music of J.S. Bach, built off his lifelong loyalty to the composer. The series ran for four seasons between 1992 and 1996 at the 92nd Street Y in New York.
More recently in January 2003, Feltsman not only served as Artistic Director for Masterpieces of the Russian Underground, but also performed in most of their pieces. Put on by Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the project emphasized Russian contemporary music through the piano and chamber works of 14 different composers. Feltsman now educates piano students at Mannes College of Music in New York City.
“It’s interesting to think how quickly Feltsman became successful when he moved here,” said Don Roth, executive director at the Mondavi Center. “He became an immediate sensation when he played for President Reagan at the White House, and his career has just kept going since then. Feltsman just has this quality about him; of looking very serious at the piano, but what comes out is incredibly beautiful and moving.”
Roth added that this is Feltsman’s first time in Jackson Hall and that the Mondavi staff keenly awaits his arrival. He also noted that Feltsman would be leading a class on Friday for piano performance students in the music department.
“I’m very pleased about this,” Daley said. “I just have to thank the Mondavi Center for arranging [it]. It’s great when people like this come to perform at the Mondavi and they’re also able to give some artistic input to our own students.”
Students may also find that the venue in itself is reason enough to attend, Don said.
“Jackson Hall in the Mondavi Center is an amazing venue for a solo piano recital,” Roth said. “If I were a student I would come over to the Mondavi Center, find a really good buy on a ticket, and sit down, close my eyes and let all the worries of everyday college life slip away!”
ELENI STEPHANIDES can be reached at email@example.com.