Encore Peninsula Concerts is back for 2019 – with a brand new venue.
The series has been presenting hour-long Sunday afternoon concerts with some of the finest classical artists on the international scene at White Rock’s First United Church for the past six years.
But, now that the church has closed due to redevelopment plans, the series, co-sponsored by the City of White Rock, is moving to Mount Olive Lutheran Church (2350 148 St.).
The series’ founder and frequent performer, concert pianist Eugene Skovorodnikov, however, is happy to report that the international flavour remains the same, still drawing on colleagues from around the world whose touring schedules can accomodate a stop in the Vancouver area and a side trip to the Semiahmoo Peninsula.
“These are all friends of mine,” he explains. “They’re always very accomodating and will try to rearrange other dates to make ours work. I don’t invite people I don’t know – and I don’t go through agents.”
He’s also happy, he said, with the “bright and open” venue, which has good acoustics, if not as phenomenally ‘live’ as the First United building.
Also a music educator (he was once the youngest faculty member at the historic St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia), Skovorodnikov has had a long and distinguished concert career since he left his native land in 1990 – as well as a successful career presenting and promoting concerts in Richmond, Vancouver and, latterly, White Rock.
The 2019 season he has selected includes Piano Fest 2019 – four piano recitals from January through April – plus a special Spring Harmonies concert in March.
First up, on Jan. 13, is his own performance, showcasing Russian music by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, and what the Nevsky Times in St. Petersburg referred to as his “perfect mastery and a polished sense of style, full of life and romanticism.”
“I decided to do it because I haven’t played any Russian music for a long time,” Skovorodnikov said.
“These two composers always go together nicely. Tchaikovsky was such an influential composer, and Rachmaninov was a great admirer of his work.”
Then, on Feb. 3 it will be the turn of fellow Russian-born pianist Valery Kuleshov, who has been widely recognized as one of the most outstanding virtuosos of the former Soviet Union.
Kuleshov – a past winner of two of the most prestigious piano competitions in the world, the Busoni, in Italy, and the Van Cliburn, in the U.S. – will be playing music by Bach, Liszt and Rachmaninov.
“He’s an absolutely fantastic player and one of my favourite musicians,” Skovorodnikov said. “He’s really a legendary figure in Russia and he’s played all around the world with the best orchestras, and made 20 or 30 recordings.”
On March 3, for the Spring Harmonies recital, the Rimsky Korsakov String Quartet of Russia will be joined by Macedonian oboist Gordana Josifova-Nedelkovska and Vancouver-based violinist Robert Rozek for a program of double concerti and more – including the Baroque and post-Baroque music of Bach, Haydn and Mozart.
It’s welcome return of the quartet after an appearance in the 2015 season – and Skovorodnikov is taking full advantage of their close proximity (they’re working in Washington State early next year) to involve them not only in the series but in a project accompanying some of his students in performances in Vancouver and at Qualicum Beach.
“Gordana is one of the leading oboe players in Europe and she’s also dean of music studies at the Skopje University in Macedonia,” Skovorodnikov said.
“Robert, although he’s lived in Canada for many years, is originally from Switzerland. He’s also a conductor – in fact, he conducted our concerto project a couple of years ago.”
On April 7, Skovorodnikov will be back as half of a piano duo, with frequent collaborator Anna Vavilova. The colleagues – who have been playing a wide range of piano duo repertoire together since 2005 – will be focusing on masterworks for piano duo by Brahms, Dvorak and Piazzola in their new touring program entitled Dances for 4 Hands.
“It’s by four hands, but at one piano,” said Skovorodnikov, “although the plan is eventually to tour this material with two pianos. It’s definitely dance music – Brahms’ Hungarian Dances, Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances, while Piazzola’s pieces, which we’ve had to limit because of the length of this recital, but could actually be presented as a history of tango.”
Rounding out the season, on April 28, will be an all-Chopin program by acclaimed Italian pianist Achille Gallo, rated in the top 155 for prominence and influence in a poll by the U.S. blog/website Classical Pianist of the Future, and praised by American Record Guide as “a pianist full of passion…technically capable of reaching the top of expressiveness.”
“He’s a very strong player – a very good pianist, from a traditional line of Italian training,” Skovorodnikov said.
“And he’s going to play the whole set of Chopin waltzes – all 15 of them – which will be a delight.”
Tickets for Piano Fest 2019 performances are $25 ($22 for students and seniors) or $90 ($80 students and seniors) for all four concerts. Tickets for the Spring Harmonies recital are $35 ($25 students and seniors).
For tickets and information, call 604-541-2199 or visit www.whiterockcity.ca