Friday, July 20 , 2018, 3:41 pm | Fair 75º


Young Virtuosi Shine in Unitarian Society Recital

Violinist Chavdar Parashkevov and pianist Natasha Kislenko exude talent and artistry

The Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara, known for musical events of unusual richness, presented a winning afternoon recital Sunday with violinist Chavdar Parashkevov and pianist Natasha Kislenko.

The young artists excelled in a program of Wieniawski, Prokofiev, Nikolayev and a couple of Gypsy-derived pieces, followed by an encore of sweetly melancholy Bulgarian music. The two are both young, polished and well-matched in artistry and sensitivity.

The first work was Henryk Wieniawski’s Concert Polonaise in D Major, Op. 4, a familiar piece of violin magic in which Parashkevov was the star. He played with ardor and a couple of times almost dancerlike physical involvement. Wieniawski was of Jewish extraction, living in the Polish part of the 19th-century Russian Empire, and just about wrote the book on romantic violin music. He fell in love with a young woman whose parents disapproved of him, so he wrote an exquisite “Legende” that changed their minds.

Next up was Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata in D Major, Op. 94 bis, written during World War II. This four-section work allowed both musicians to have their glittering moments. The scherzo-presto second movement was especially bold, with the violinist segueing into a brilliant interplay with the pianist. Parashkevov was notably antic and expressive in the final, allegro con brio, movement.

After a brief intermission, the two returned for Leonid Nikolayev’s Sonata in G Major, written in 1903. This piece evoked nostalgia of the best kind, suffused with Russian soulfulness.

The last two programmed works were of the Gypsy persuasion: Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane from 1924 and Pablo de Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20, written in 1878. Kislenko, in her Slavic-accented English, introduced the pieces as “very passionate” and full of “Oriental color” and indeed they were.

The Russian-born Kislenko, a rising star on the concert circuit, is a member of the keyboard faculty at UCSB, and will teach this summer at the Music Academy of the West. A native of Bulgaria, Parashkevov lives in Texas, and performs with the orchestras of the Houston Grand Opera and the Houston Ballet.

In keeping with the concert’s air of old-fashioned glamor and charm, Kislenko wore a street-length black cocktail dress and ankle-strap shoes. Although she and Parashkevov are both quite young, they also have a sense of time and place entirely fitting for their music.

At a reception after the concert, Kislenko said the two plan to repeat the program at venues in other cities.

— Margo Kline covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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