Amazing! Brilliant! Energetic! Sensitive! Powerful! Perfection!
These are just some of the words heard among the awe-struck audience in the packed venue at the Lone Star College/Montgomery Music Hall on Friday afternoon (April 29, 2016) at the Bach to Rachmaninoff Concerto recital.
The performers hailed from a diverse background, including eight-year-old prodigy, Daniel Robbins; young film maker/composer/concert-pianist, Jordan Ong; a Houston Performing Arts high school student, Anthony Tovar; and Lone Star college student, Richard Kazandzhidi and the only adult, Natalia Mikhaylenko, both from Russia.
Their one common factor — the driving force behind them, their mentor, Dr. Sergei Kuznetsoff, a musical prodigy himself when he started his musical training at age five at the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conervatoire. His own mentors read like the Who’s Who in piano music: Tamas Ungar, Joaquin Achucarro, Daniel Pollack and others. Dr. Kuznetsoff has competed around the world (China, USA, Italy and Russia) and hasreceived many prestigious awards.
What is inspiring about Dr. Kuznetsov, is not only his awesome virtuosity at the piano, as revealed as he accompanied the five performers on the second piano, but his astounding dedication and inspiring pedagogy as he draws out the BEST from each of his students.
The concert began with Daniel Robbins who performed Joseph Haydn’s Keyboard Concerto in D. After the initial shock of witnessing a small child with such a formidable repertoire, one settles in to the beauty of the clear, lyrical interpretation of the classical piece — akin to witnessing Mozart during the early classical period.
Next, Jordan Ong, who, as a five-year-old child was featured on ABC and NBC as a Best and Brightest musician. Now 23, Jordan’s powerful hands are capable of stunning nuances as he performs Grieg’s Concerto in a minor, 1st movement. According to Dr. Thomas Conroy, faculty, Rice University and San Francisco Conservatory of Music, “Jordan’s playing was so sensitive, energetic, reserved in all the right places and then unleashed to brilliant resonance.”
Anthony Tovar, followed with the 3rd movement of the Grieg’s Concerto. Again, one wondered, how such a slender body could produce such powerful sound! Still in high school, this young man performed the 3rd movement with the ease of a seasoned pianist and the drama of a star, as his whole body literally lifted off the piano bench while he pounded out the huge chords, his stylish hair flailing in the wind from his waving arms!
Richard Kazandzhidi, a spitting image of his mentor Dr. Sergei, from the horn-rimmed glasses to the cool checkered sneakers on the stage, takes your breath away with his performance of Rachmaninov’s Concerto in F-sharp minor. The physical resemblance was intensified as the two of them played in such synchrony that for a moment, one began to wonder if the second piano was just a mirage!
Natalia Mikhaylenko, is truly inspiring in that as an adult, she challenges the audience to take up piano or to return to their lessons. Her performance of Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in d minor, has the maturity and reserve that comes from hours of practice. The genius of Bach in weaving the mathematical chord progression of themes and counterpoints is apparent in her performance.
The audience was treated to an hour of “Spa for the Soul!” Not only were the five senses revitalized, the spirit re-energized, but as a witness to these extraordinary performances, one has renewed hope for the world and our future!