Music Director Elizabeth Schulze has not lowered the bar for this weekend’s celebration, “From Russia with Love.”
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Pianist Yuliya Gorenman will perform Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, a work Schulze called “one of the most difficult and admired works in the repertoire.”
“Simply put, there is nothing harder,” she said during a phone conversation on her way home to Silver Spring, Md., from American University in Washington, D.C. “It’s long. It’s physically exhausting. As far as technical challenges, there is nothing like it in the piano repertoire.”
Despite the challenges, Gorenman called the concerto one of her favorite pieces. She performed its first movement when she was 15.
“I had no fear,” she said. “Still don’t.”
Gorenman performed the concerto with the National Symphony Orchestra in 1997. Schulze conducted.
“It’s going to be a wonderful reunion,” Gorenman said.
Born in Odessa, Ukraine, and raised in Kazakhstan, Gorenman started piano lessons at age 7. Her mother was her first teacher. She attended the St. Petersburg Conservatory, and, while still a student, performed throughout the former Soviet Union.
After immigrating to the United States in 1989, she studied at the San Francisco Conservatory and then at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore with Leon Fleischer.
Gorenman first achieved international acclaim as a prizewinner of the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium in 1995. Since then, she has been invited to perform solo, chamber and orchestral concerts throughout the world, according to press information.
Gorenman’s repertoire — check it out at www.yuliya.com — is huge. She said she’s fought her whole life not to be pigeonholed into performing just Russian music.
“It’s crazy,” she said with a laugh. “The biggest chunk of my repertoire is actually Beethoven. ...
“Don’t get me wrong. I love Russian music passionately. It’s part of my DNA. But I wanted to make sure that I can be taken seriously in every other repertoire.”
Last year, Gorenman achieved a “lifelong dream” by completing the Gorenman Beethoven Project. She performed the complete cycle of all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas in a series of eight solo recitals at American University, where she is professor of piano and musician in residence. She teaches classes and tutors individual lessons at the university and also has a private studio.
Gorenman said teaching informs her playing. Usually, she said, a pianist plays something instinctively, but when the artist has to make it clear to somebody else, there has to be a logical basis. “My God, I’ve played this piece for 10 years and I never noticed this,” she said she has said.
The late musicologist Nicholas Slonimsky has been credited with calling Gorenman “a pianist without fear.” Gorenman called the description “pretty accurate.”
A lot of what artists do is to conquer their natural fear of performing in public, she said.