A celebration of Liszt and Chopin

Eugene Skovorodnikov, a Ukrainian-born pianist who studied and taught at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia, returns to Southern Oregon University for a celebration of works by classical composers Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt. The years 2010 and 2011 mark the 200th anniversaries of the famous pianists, respectively.

The concert is part of Alexander Tutunov's and the SOU Music Department's Piano Series.

Since 1991, Skovorodnikov has taught on the piano faculty at the University of British Columbia, Canada.

"Quite often, people ask me about my favorite music or composer," Skovorodnikov states in a press release. "It is a pretty hard question for me to answer."

On his last visit to SOU, Skovorodnikov presented a recital of Mozart, Schubert and Tchaikovsky. So, at that time, those composers were his favorites.

"As performers, we have to like or even to love the music that we play at the moment," Skovorodnikov says. "This year, Chopin and Liszt are my favorites."

Skovorodnikov will open the program at SOU with Liszt's "Funérailles." He'll also perform Chopin's 2 Mazurkas, Op. 7; 2 Polonaise, Op. 26; 2 Nocturnes, Op. 27; and Ballade No. 2 in F Major, Op. 38. He'll close with Liszt's Cantique d'Amour.

Skovorodnikov is in the process of preparing a biographical recital of Liszt's music, so the majority of the program's repertoire will be dominated by this composer.

"Since 2010 was the 200th anniversary of Chopin, I also wanted to give my tribute to this genius of the piano," Skovorodnikov says. "The particular choice of the composer's repertoire for this recital was based on my desire to represent variety of styles of Chopin's music."

Chopin was a Polish composer, a virtuoso pianist and a master of Romantic music. As a child prodigy, he grew up in Warsaw and studied at the city's conservatory. He traveled to Vienna, then settled in Paris after the Russo-Polish war began. There, he supported himself as a composer and piano teacher, gradually renouncing his public career, until he died in 1849 at the age of 39.

Chopin's musical innovations include the instrumental ballad, the piano sonata, mazurka, waltz, nocturne, polonaise, étude, impromptu and prélude.

"I consider the music of Chopin to be some of the most poetic expressions in the high art," Skovorodnikov says. "In this regard, I wanted to complete my program with some of Liszt's piano compositions of the similar poetic nature."

Liszt was born in Hungary and moved to Vienna as a child, where he studied piano and composition. Later, he moved with his family to Paris, where he found inspiration in violinist Niccolò Paganini — famed for his playing of tender passages — and developed a similar technique as a pianist. As a director of music in the court of Weimar, Germany, Liszt wrote his "Faust" and "Dante" symphonies and 12 symphonic poems. In Rome, Liszt composed religious music of the period. Finally concentrating on teaching, his pupils entered a new compositional phase in which harmonic innovations were a significant feature. He died in Bayreuth in 1886. "What poetry would be without pathos and tragedy, 'Funérailles,' and love, Cantique d'Amour," Skovorodnikov says.

Skovorodnikov has been recognized around the world for his stylistic interpretation of the masters. He is a winner of the N. Lisenko National Piano Competition in Ukraine, and, in 2006, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in musical arts by Kharkov State University of Arts for his performances and teaching. He is president and artistic director of Canada's Music Encore Concert Society, which presents recitals and chamber music.

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