Ukrainian soloist to play rare concert Music: Pianist Mykola Suk with the Kiev Camerata should be a highlight of the season.

October 20, 1998|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

One of the most interesting events of the current classical music season is about to pass us by almost unnoticed. It is a free concert this Sunday at 3 p.m. at Temple Oheb Shalom by the Kiev Camerata, with piano soloist Mykola Suk, conducted by Virko Baley.

Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, is the birthplace of Russian culture. It has also always been an international city, with large ethnic German and Jewish populations. (Before World War I, Kiev's street signs were in Yiddish as well as Cyrillic lettering.)

It is also an extremely musical city. Kiev possessed one of the first orchestras in the Russian empire (1704) and one of the first conservatories (1868). In pre-revolutionary times, all of Europe's great musicians -- from Franz Liszt to Fritz Kreisler -- performed there. Little wonder that Kiev was the birthplace of such great musicians as Vladimir Horowitz and that its musical traditions remain strong today, as evinced by crack ensembles such as the Kiev Camerata.

The Kiev Camerata, a chamber orchestra of 32 players, visits Oheb Shalom as part of its first American tour -- it has just concluded an acclaimed tour of Western Europe -- and it comes with an interesting program. First on the program will be the Concerto-Tryptych for Strings of Ivan Karabyts. Though his work is only now being discovered by Western listeners, Karabyts, now in his late 40s, has been considered one of Eastern Europe's leading composers for years.

The orchestra will also perform Schoenberg's lushly romantic "Verklaerte Nacht" ("Transfigured Night") and Prokofiev's crisp and witty "Classical Symphony."

For piano aficionados, however, the highlight of the program will be Mykola Suk's performance of the Beethoven Fourth Concerto. About 25 years ago, Suk -- he was Mikhail Suk in those days -- was among the brightest stars in the galaxy of superb young Soviet pianists. He was perhaps the most brilliant student of Lev Vlasenko at the Moscow Conservatory -- and as his famous teacher had 15 years earlier, Suk won first prize in Budapest's prestigious Liszt-Bartok Competition (1971).

But except for a few splendid, hard-to-find discs on the Hungaraton and Melodiya labels, Suk seemed to have dropped out of sight.

That is apparently not the case. Like a number of other important artists of the former Soviet Union, Suk -- who now uses the tTC Ukrainian Mykola instead of the Russian Mikhail -- currently lives in New York and teaches at the New England Conservatory in Boston. Also in his late 40s, Suk is presumably at the height of his powers. it should prove most interesting to hear him in the most poetic of the five Beethoven piano concertos.

Tickets for the concert, sponsored by the Peggy and Yale Gordon Trust, will be available at the door of Temple Oheb Shalom (7300 Park Heights Ave.). For information, call 410-358-0105.

Pub Date: 10/20/98

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