Donetsk-born pianist Serhiy Salov performs debut concert in Toronto


by Tetiana Tkachenko

TORONTO - Artistic performances that are 100 percent successful in every respect are truly rare, however the Toronto debut concert of pianist Serhiy Salov, which took place on March 1, in the Glen Gould Studio, was indeed an unqualified success.

Winner of the First Grand Prize at the Montreal International Musical Competition in 2004, Mr. Salov was born in 1979 in Donetsk, where he attended a special music school for exceptionally gifted musicians. Upon completion of these studies, he achieved his bachelor of music from Musikhochschule Freiburg in Germany, and received his master's degree from Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, England. Currently, the pianist resides in Strasbourg, France.

The influence of his early musical training can be felt in the very vivid and passionate, yet ever tasteful refinement of Mr. Salov's performance. He is not only the beneficiary of tremendous God-given talent, but also possesses a phenomenal musical apparatus, which he employs with such precision that it seems he could play ad infinitum without enduring any physical exhaustion or loss of concentration.

In Mr. Salov's performance one senses a combination of emotions and warmth with the intellectual realization of the potential of his instrument, as well as the demands of the works he is playing. To listen to Mr. Salov perform is not only pleasant, but fascinating. He needs to be heard many times, as does his interpretation of works from diverse periods and styles in the compendium of musical literature.

During his March 1 concert Mr. Salov performed almost exclusively the works of the Romantics: Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, Brahms, Lysenko and Johann Strauss. He played this repertoire very well - his sound is agreeable and warm, with wide-ranging subtleties, light filigree technique and individuality of interpretation, but without artifice or exaggeration. This pianist does not "suffer," or "agonize," but shares with his listeners the thoughts and emotions of the composers of these masterpieces of the musical art form, as well as his own concept as their interpreter.

However, it must be confessed that Mr. Salov's greatest strength lies in his performance of works by Ukrainian composers. He deeply feels and understands the particularities of Ukrainian folk music. Beneath Mr. Salov's fingers, Mykola Lysenko's well-known second rhapsody sounded completely new, truly exciting. One heard the familiar timbre of folk instruments, lyrical improvisations, pulsing dance rhythms and impeccable piano technique.

The most interesting part of the concert program was the suite by Ihor Shamo titled "Hutsulian Watercolors," written in 1971. This work employs both 20th century harmonies and the special virtuosic possibilities of the piano. At times our thoughts turn to the French impressionists, however, on balance one feels the influence of Hutsul music.

It seems to me that, of all the aspects of Mr. Salov's talent, the most brilliant is his understanding of the inherent color in music and his masterful recreation of these colors by means of the most diverse array of touches and pedaling. When Mr. Salov played "Watercolors," one heard not the piano, but the Carpathian Mountains and all their songs, musicians, waterfalls, rain and a "light covering of mist."

In his performance of this musically complex, lengthy work with unusual, dissonant harmonies, Mr. Salov reached the soul of each listener and roused the most enthusiastic applause.

It is a pity that the pianist performed only four parts of the suite, and not the entire six. It is essential that Mr. Salov return to Toronto and allow us the opportunity to experience the entire Shamo, as well as works from the Baroque period, Viennese classics and the compositions of French impressionists, and, of course, many more works by Ukrainian composers, performed as only Mr. Salov can.

It was nice to see at this concert individuals of different ages, yet all musically appreciative. The presence of young people and children is in part owed to the Ukrainian Music Festival, which is already training the second generation of Ukrainian music lovers (I saw many familiar young faces) and which this year awarded the most meritorious participants of the festival with tickets to Mr. Salov's Toronto debut.

The organizing committee, formed for the purpose of arranging this concert, deserves our heartfelt thanks for its professionalism and active labor of love. It is hoped that the committee will continue its activity for the benefit of a culturally rich, Ukrainian Toronto and that, as a result, we will be able to hear more regularly the performances of our distinguished musical artists.


Tetiana Tkachenko is a long-standing member of the Piano Faculty of the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto, and the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto. (Ms. Tkachenko's article was translated by Ulana Plawuszczak Pidzamecky.)


Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, April 30, 2006, No. 18, Vol. LXXIV


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