Outstanding Young Pianists of Houston at Lone Star Montgomery College

Outstanding Houston young pianists with Dr. Tali Murgu and Dr. Sergey Kuznetsov

To kick off the Holidays, eleven outstanding young pianists ranging in age from nine to early twenties thrilled the audience with a fantastic repertoire at Lone Star Montgomery College Music Hall Dec. 2. The pianists, mentored by World Class Award winning professors, Dr. Sergey Kusnetsov and Dr. Tali Murgulis presented masterful performances that belie their age.

The program began with Katherine Schober’s graceful rendition of Schumann’s Papillon Op.2. Her delicate touch captured the beautiful butterflies in flight, which ended with a delightful finish.

Daniel Robbins


Then, nine-year-old Daniel Robbins, his tiny body dwarfed by the nine-foot Steinway grand piano, delivered a flawless, lyrical, rendition of Haydn’s Sonata in b minor Hob: 32, 1st movement, to an awed, much older audience!

James Hutto, with his youthful, curly mop, performed a powerful modern piece by Gyorgy Ligette, Musica Ricercata. With its drum-like, dissonant, rhythmic chords, interspersed with suspenseful silence, it conjured a horror movie in the mind of the entranced audience. Next, Nataliya Mihailenko performed Bach’s Chorale Prelude, Ich ruf zu Herr Jesu Christ, a familiar, favorite hymn rich in theme and counterpoint development. Jihye Cheon’s two Chopin Etudes Black Keys and Revolutionary were astounding in their dizzying speed and flawless accuracy. Yet, the lyrical performance brought a smile to everyone, hanging on to the roller coaster ride on the keyboard.

Bella Morales played Schumann’s Arabesque Op. 18 with expressivity, balance and controlled dynamics. A beautiful performance with the melody soaring lyrically above the harmonies. Ashley Wu played Rachmaninoff’s Moment Musicaux, Op. 16, No. 4 with unbelievable power exuding from a petite frame, her left hand executing very difficult passages with confidence. Yuikino Muyake delivered Beethoven’s Sonata in A major Op. 2, 1st movement with clean, clear, sparkling scales cascading over the classical melodies.


The last three performers, Rchard Kazandzhidi, Jordan Ong and Anton Tovar, young men in their teens and early twenties are wonderful to behold.
Richard Kazandzhidi, age 20, gave a mature, poignant performance of Vallée d’Obermann from Book I Années de Pèlerinage:Suisse by Franz Liszt. Hungarian Franz Liszt was the greatest pianist of his time. An incomparable virtuoso, he literally invented modern-day piano technique, exploiting the possibilities of the piano as none had done before him. Richard’s masterful control of all the notes gave detail to all the nuances in this piece.

Jordan Ong, who had spent the past summer on a concert tour in Asia, performed Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G minor, Op. 23, No. 5, a music piece which Rachmaninoff himself premiered in Moscow on February 10, 1903,

The Prelude’s taut structure of ABA ternary form, consisted of an opening “A” section of punctuated sixteenth-note chords, with idiosyncratic jumps, and a more lyrical and melancholy “B” section that has sweeping arpeggios in the left hand that few pianists can reach, unless they have large hands as Rachmaninoff. Fortunately, Jordan’s large, graceful hands never dropped a note, while masterfully capturing the contrast between the rhythmic march of the “A” section and the fantastic lullaby of the “B” section.

Jordan also delighted the audience with the Sugar Plum Fairy from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite as arranged by Mikhail Pletnev. Pletnev has adapted some of Tchaikovsky music into a technically demanding concert suite reserved only for virtuosos. The delightful music warmed the audience as they smiled and nodded their heads to the familiar Christmas music.

Finally, Anthony Tovar flawlessly executed Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Op. 26, 1st movement, accompanied by Dr. Tali Morgulis, Israeli-America award winning piano professor from University of Houston. Among his work, Prokofiev’s third piano concerto has garnered the greatest popularity and critical acclaim. Anthony played difficult scalar passages, which accelerate towards a glissando climax, and breaks the lyrical mood in an exuberant, harmonically fluid burst of brilliance and rhythm.

The three young men Richard, Jordan and Anthony will be accompanying their mentor, Dr. Sergey Kuznetsov, winner of the China 3rd International competition and an organizer for Van Cliburn Foundation, on a tour next year to perform Rachmaninoff, Grieg and Prokofiev concertos in several destinations, including Costa Rica, Asia and across the nation.

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