Saturday, February 24 , 2018, 4:47 pm | Fair 59º


Margo Kline: Natasha Kislenko Leads Spring Piano Romp

The recital is one in a series of concerts at the Unitarian Society; the next one is scheduled for Sunday

Many hands made light — and lyrical — work of a varied program for piano four hands Sunday at the Santa Barbara Unitarian Society.

The excellent concert artist Natasha Kislenko, who serves as the official pianist for the congregation, was joined by Ilya Sinaisky in a recital of works for four hands on the single Steinway grand piano. For one selection, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Romance and Waltz,” there actually were six hands, when Margaret Halbig joined the dual pianists.

These young artists are skilled soloists who also excel in collaborative piano. Kislenko is a member of the piano faculty at UCSB and introduced the selections, which were ideal for a balmy spring afternoon.

Kislenko and Sinaisky began with the Suite from “Peer Gynt” by Edvard Grieg, in four movements. The first, “Morning Mood,” featured precisely synchronized trills, and the next, “Anitra’s Dance,” was appropriately sinuous. The haunting “Solveig’s Song” led into the big finish, “In the Hall of the Mountain King.”

The substantial “Peer Gynt” was followed by Claude Debussy’s feather-light “Petite Suite,” also in four movements. French Impressionist music, to this reviewer, can’t compare with French Impressionist painting, but this slight work was well-received by the audience.

Kislenko, who is from Russia, and the Ukrainian-born and Israeli-trained Sinaisky followed this with two selections from Rachmaninoff’s Opus 11, a haunting barcarolle and a dramatic scherzo. They were then joined by Halbig for the rousing six-handed piece.

After a brief intermission, Kislenko and Sinaisky returned with Ludwig van Beethoven’s Sonata in D Major, Opus 6. Even mighty Beethoven had his lighter moments, and this was a delightful — and springlike — example.

Kislenko introduced the next selection, Sonatina Romance del Plata, by contemporary Argentinean composer Carlos Guastavino, explaining that “he said he loved melody.” The three-part work was indeed melodious, closing with a rondo that had a subtle Latin flavor.

The scheduled program ended with the Hungarian Dances Nos. 1, 2, 5 and 7 by Johannes Brahms. The two pianists were still full of energy as they played these old favorites.

Of course, Kislenko and Sinaisky were called back for an encore. They obliged with another brief work by Rachmaninoff.

This recital was one of a series of Sunday concerts scheduled at the Unitarian Society, 1535 Santa Barbara St. Next Sunday’s event, at 3 p.m., will feature violist Helen Callus and the Bach Project.

It’s also pleasant to contemplate that the Music Academy of the West will begin its summer term next month. Sinaisky and Halbig are former fellows of the academy, and Kislenko has been a member of the faculty since 2004.

— Margo Kline covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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