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(Posted 09/04/06)

Russian pianist makes triumphant appearance in Orléans
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Russian pianist Vladimir Ovchinnikov brought the 2005/06 Concerts Cumberland series to an end on Friday with a concert at the Orleans United Church. Fred Sherwin/Photo

Russian pianist Vladimir Ovchinnikov made a rare North American appearance at the Orléans United Church last Friday and the 250 or so people who were in the audience were thrilled he did.

Ovchinnikov is one of Russia’s premier pianists having played with some of the world's most renowned orchestras including the Moscow Philharmonic, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony and the Royal Philharmonic.

Fresh off a solo performance as part of the San Francisco Chamber Music Series last Saturday, Ovchinnikov made his one and only stop on Canadian soil a triumphant one with a spellbinding interpretation of Rachmaninoff's Six Etudes-Tableaux Op. 33 followed by Rachmaninoff's Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 36.

Of the six studies that make up the Etudes-Tableaux the most musical to my ear was the third study, E-flat Minor Non Allegro - Presto, while the fourth study, E-flat Major Allegro Con Fuoco, took the audience on a flight of fancy as Ovchinnikov’s nibble fingers travelled up and down the keyboard.

The fifth study, G Minor Moderato, was much softer but finished with a strength and confidence that reminded you that you were in the presence of real virtuoso.

The sixth and final study, C-sharp Minor Grave, provided a fitting finale to the piece as Ovchinnikov’s pedal work helped create a lavish sound that filled the venue.

As powerful a performance as the Etudes-Tableaux was, Ovchinnikov was merely setting the table for his rendition of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 36 which is performed in three movements: Allegro Agitato, Non Allegro Lento and Allegro Molto. Of the three, the Non Allegro Lento was by far my favourite piece of the evening.

After a brief intermission Ovchinnikov concluded the concert by playing the complete version of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition”.

When the concert had ended my first thought was how breathtaking it must be to hear him play with a full orchestra backing him. Unfortunately the closest one can get to that experience would be to purchase one of his CDs. Even so, to have been able to hear one of the world’s great pianists in person here in Orléans was a real treat made possible by the group of volunteers that make up Concerts Cumberland and their primary sponsor Dust Evans Lawyers/ Avocats.

The Ovchinnikov concert marks the end of yet another wonderful series that included performances by Canadian cellist Kaori Yamagami, the Arthur Leblanc Quartet and the Gryphon Trio.

Local chamber music enthusiasts will have to wait another six months before the start of next year's series and four more superb concerts featuring some of the very best classical musicians in the world.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)


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