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Russian pianist returns to Rolling Hills E-mail
Saturday, 16 February 2013 19:12

By Annie Lubinsky, Peninsula News

Recalling the warm reception she received during last year’s Palos Verdes performance, pianist Svetlana Smolina will visit the Hill again on Feb. 17 to participate in the “Sundays at Two” series at the Rolling Hills United Methodist Church.


She’ll play music by Schubert, Schumann, Liszt, Bizet-Horowitz and Chopin.

“It’s a romantic set of selections,” she said. “The music I’m going to play sends a direct poetic message to the heart — they’re often-performed compositions that encompass the most intimate, sincere, deep and sacred human emotions. They transcend and express the inexpressible through their sounds.”

Smolina, born in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, was in a science school studying physics and math when she knew she wanted to focus on music. Her earliest influence was her mother, who was a musician. And Smolina discovered her passion for performing before an audience.

“I love being on stage so much,” she said. “I felt I was born with music inside of me — it is in some way a blessing and a healing. Being able to transfer a composer’s message, express my own feelings and share it all on stage with the audience and receive their energy and response back — nothing else can come close to that. After winning my first major piano competition at the age of 11 in Russia, I started to feel innately I must fully concentrate on music.”

She has lived in the United States for more than 12 years, originally traveling from Russia to study with Alexander Toradze at Indiana University. She continued her studies with Monique Duphil at Oberlin Conservatory, Evgeny Mogilevsky at Brussels Royal Conservatory in Belgium and Arthur Greene at the University of Michigan.

“I am grateful to have those teachers in my life, as they all taught me not just how to play piano but how to become a better person and see life from different perspectives,” she said.

Smolina has performed with orchestras and in recitals worldwide, including the Salzburg Festival, Hollywood Bowl Festival in Los Angeles, Ravinia Rising Stars Festival in Chicago, White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg, Maggio Musicale in Florence, Mikkeli Festival, Ruhr Festival, Easter Festival in Moscow, Rotterdam Phillips Gergiev Festival in Holland, International Gilmore Keyboard Festival, Settimane Musicali di Stresa, Festivale di Bologna, Michelangeli Festival in Brescia and Hennessy Artists Series at Hanoi Opera House in Vietnam.

“Having new experiences gives me inspiration and a new perspective and ideas on the music I perform,” she said. “Experiencing different cultures nurtures artists and their creativity.”

Smolina fondly remembers the enthusiastic audience who attended her Palos Verdes concert last year.

“The response was heartfelt and touching,” she said. “It was an incredible audience. It was a true pleasure to play for them in a beautiful venue with great acoustics and a wonderful instrument.”

The 2013 season will bring her to cities in California and Florida, as well as to the Tri-County Emerging Artist Concert Series, the Live Connections Series at World Cafe Live! in Philadelphia and the Powell Concert Series in Tennessee.

She will also perform as a soloist with Nizhny Novgorod and Kostroma philharmonics in Russia, and in orchestras in Pennsylvania and in South America, which will give her ample opportunity to express composers’ ideas to eager listeners.

“You can feel that they are listening and their emotional response, and you feel the energy,” she said. “It’s magically intoxicating. The response you get from the audience also drives you, because there is nothing more precious for an artist than to see their art being recognized and rewarded. And I hope that the music we play will convey a message to some of the listeners, that life can be a much better place with music in it. It transcends me into another dimension every time I touch the keys.”

Smolina will perform at the Rolling Hills United Methodist Church on Sunday, Feb. 17, at 2 p.m. The church is located at 26438 Crenshaw Blvd. in Rolling Hills Estates. For more information, call (310) 377-6771 or visit www.rhumc.org/musicconcerts.asp#20130217.


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