Pianist Sergei Saratovsky at Müzewest Fundraising concert, May 22

In an era of constant budget cuts, music and art education and experiences are cut, despite their very real contributions to children’s lives. Children being able to play in a band or get music lessons does not happen by magic (even Louis Armstrong learned to play the trumpet as part of a school program). Organizations like Müzewest and St. James Academy bring music to children in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. I was invited to attend the Müzewest May 22 fundraising concert, which was a pleasure to do. Apart from the piano concert, founder Jennifer West called up some of the other volunteers in Müzewest for recognition, and it’s clear this is a group that really is passionate about musical outreach. Sergei Saratovsky started his programme with Liszt’s Liebestraum No. 3 in A-flat major. This piece seems simple enough that I have even tried it myself, but like Liszt’s works in general, it takes a great deal of virtuosity and delicacy to make it work properly, which Saratovsky adeptly demonstrated. Liszt starts with a languid expression of love (this is a Dream of Love after all), which reaches a passionate crescendo. I was fortunate to have an excellent seat where I could see Saratovsky playing. Students think in terms of “mastering” a piece, which is itself an enormous challenge with works like the Chopin and Rachmainoff pieces that Saratovsky performed (.Frédéric Chopin – Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52 and Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) – Lilacs, Op. 21 No. 5 and Tchaikovsky-Rachmaninoff – Lullaby). But what I see in Saratovsky goes beyond mastery; he is collaborating with the music, channeling the music, emanating the music. Small venues like for this concert allow a much more personal experience. I was really taken by the last work of the evening–Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) – Three Movements from the Ballet “Petrouchka”. Rachmaninoff, of course, demands a lot of his pianists, but Stravinsky’s demands here are at least equal. As I was listening, I could swear I heard ragtime influences. Could this be? I did some research and found that Stravinsky was indeed influenced by ragtime, although admittedly I have not specifically seen a study of ragtime in Petrouchka. I also found that Stravinsky had originally arranged this piano version for Arthur Rubinstein.  I have not listened to the Rubenstein version (given that Rubinstein never recorded it), but Saratovsky did Stravinsky justice. Here’s a description of the work that explains its challenges: petrouchka It might seem trite to say so, but with modern classical music in particular, it must be performed very well for the audience to be able to appreciate it. Saratovsky rose to this challenge admirably. I want to hear Trois Mouvements de Petrouchka again, sooner rather than later. You can see Saratovsky’s YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChTHvOWq7h05Kuva1n33C7g His website is here: Sergei Saratovsky This week, May 30 at 7:30, Müzewest has another concert that looks terrific as well. Attend, enjoy, and donate and know that you are helping propagate music by doing so. Take a look: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/729808

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