Originally created 04/28/00

Freedom of French music appeals to Russian pianist



Following a musical path that has led from her native Russia to Tel Aviv to Germany to the concert stages of the United States, pianist Eva Ostrovsky recently triumphed in Aiken at the Sixth Annual Josef Hofmann Piano Competition.

She returns to the area for concerts today and Saturday with the Augusta Symphony.

"I'm excited about this," she said, her voice still marked by a lilting Russian accent. "I've heard that Augusta is a great orchestra. I'm hoping this goes well."

The symphony and Ms. Ostrovsky perform at 8 tonight at the University of South Carolina Aiken's Etherredge Center and at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Maxwell Performing Arts Theatre at Augusta State University.

Ms. Ostrovsky will perform Maurice Ravel's Piano Concerto in G Major, a new piece in her repertoire but one she believes audiences will respond to favorably.

"For me, this is one of the greatest pieces," she said. "The French music is very much unique in its style. This piece has aspects that come from jazz and blues, and it communicates well with an audience."

Originally performed in 1932, the piece was meant as a modern nod to the classical concertos that had come before -- re-creating their structure while incorporating a 20th-century musical sensibility.

It's a demanding piece.

"There must be good communication between the orchestra and the pianist," Ms. Ostrovsky said. "We have to be partners, very good partners."

A Cincinnati resident since 1997, Ms. Ostrovsky said she is enamored of American audiences and their attitude toward classical music.

"I have found that Americans (who) come to the concerts really come to love the music," she said. "In Russia, not as many people come to the concerts, and the people (who) come are musically educated and sometimes very critical. In America audiences seem much more appreciative."

The Augusta Symphony will also perform Igor Stravinsky's Suite from the Ballet Pulcinella and the Symphony No. 4, in F Minor, Op. 36, by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Representing two generations of Russian composers, the program offers a sort of musical dichotomy -- a compare-and-contrast music lesson. An extensive reworking of several pieces by the 18th-century Italian composer Giovanni Pergolesi, Pulcinella meshes Stravinsky's interest in experimenting with the more traditional music of Pergolesi's era.

Forty years Stravinsky's senior, Tchaikovsky's work is marked by an innate understanding and reverence of the music that had come before -- Italian opera, French ballet, German symphony and the like -- filtered through his particularly Russian perspective. Although not a critical success at its 1898 premiere, the symphony has since built up a following and is now considered one of the Russian composer's greatest symphonic works.

On stage

What:The Augusta Symphony with pianist Eva Ostrovsky

When: 8 tonight and Saturday night

Where: Etherredge Center at the University of South Carolina Aiken tonight and the Grover C. Maxwell Performing Arts Theatre, Augusta State University, 2500 Walton Way, Saturday

Admission: $10-$20 for Aiken performance, $10-$27 for Augusta performance

Telephone: (803) 642-2593 in Aiken, 826-4705 in Augusta

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or suhles@hotmail.com.