“Russian Spectacular” hits McKinney Theatre

Russian Spectacular in the Mckinney theater. (H. Margaret Slye)

H. Margaret Slye

The works of major Russian composers were performed by Kirill Gliadkovsky, director of keyboard studies at Saddleback College, in the McKinney Theatre last Sunday

The performance was called “Russian Spectacular” and was part of the reflection of the ocean classical keyboard series. It lasted about an hour and 45 minutes and included in-depth historical and contextual descriptions for every piece played. 

“I wanted to do like an old Russian program, and this is, I think, like the essence of a Russian repertoire,” Gliadkovsky said in a pre-show interview. 

The show began with Sergei Taneyev’s “Prelude and Fugue Op. 29 in G Sharp Minor”, which Gliadkovsky described during the show as “one of the most difficult fugues ever written for piano.”

His description said that Taneyev was often called the Russian Bach and was a pupil of Pytor Tchaicovsky. 

Next, Gliadkovsky performed a pair of works by German born composer Nikolai Medtner, called “Fairy Tales:” Op.26 No.3-Narrate a piacere” and “Op. 20 No.1-Allegro con expression.”

Gliadkovsky described the “Fairy Tales” as “deep in feeling,” and mentioned that when asked who the best composer was in Russia, famous pianist Sergei Rachmanioff replied with Medtner’s name. 

Gliadkovsky contined with works by Rachmanioff, “Etudes-Tableaux,” which included “Op.39 No.2 in A Minor” and “Op.39 No.6 in A Minor.” Gliadkovsky explained that Rachmanioff did not name any of his compositions, but was asked what images these two particular pieces evoked.

Rachmanioff replied that the first evoked a “sea and seagulls” and the second, “the little red riding hood.” Gliadkovsky describes Rachmanioff’s compositions as dramatic and tragic. He says that he considers them something of a musical prophecy, because a few years after they were written, the Russian revolution “changed Russia forever”. 

The last work on the program, and “main event,” was a performance of “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modest Mussorgsky. Written before the other works featured in the “Russian Spectacular,”

“Pictures at an Exhibition” is considered the first major Russian work for piano,” Gliadkovsky said. He explained that the work was based on actual pictures at an actual exhibition, of which only five or six survive. He describes “Pictures at an Exhibition” as “unique” and a “monument to the Russian spirit.” 

“I could go on and on,” Gliadkovsky said, “This piece deserves a dissertation, it really does.”

After finishing his performance of “Pictures,” Glidakovsky played an encore of Rachmanioff’s “Prelude in C Sharp,” to which the audience reacted with a standing ovation. 

“It definitely inspires me to keep going and pushing with my music, seeing what [Gliadkovsky is] capable of, and seeing his abilities,” Elysia Brewer, 18, music said. “I really appreciated the descriptions he would give at the beginning of each of the pieces, that really just made it make sense completely. I loved it.”

Gliadkovsky himself was born in Moscow, Russia and has began playing music at the age of 5.

“I had a choice at some point when I was a teenager,” Gladkovsky said. “I had to choose between music and science. I was good at sciences and stuff, and I was accepted in both very like, high level schools on both majors, but I could not combine them. So, I had to make a choice, like when I was 14, and that was my choice.”


For more info on Keyboard studies at Saddleback: 


To view the Fine Arts department’s event calendar: 


For more info on Gliadovsky: 


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