It’s big. It’s Russian. And it’s been the soundtrack to Tamara-Anna Cislowska’s dreams for months as she prepares to perform with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra on 21-22 February.
The acclaimed Australian pianist says Prokofiev’s monumental Piano Concerto No. 2 is some of the most exciting writing you will ever hear from the Russian composer, and a phenomenal showcase for the piano.
She says that in some ways, it is a response to his first concerto which is about half the length at only 18 minutes. “It’s as if someone said that’s very nice that first piano concerto, nice and tuneful, and he’s taken it maybe the wrong way, and said ‘I’m going to show you’, and he’s sort of put everything into it. It’s a much darker, bigger piece, with a lot of depth and fireworks,” she says.
Tamara-Anna says it taxes the piano and the orchestra to the maximum, and the performer needs to be up to the task because it is a test of concentration and endurance.
“From a practical point of view you have to make sure that you will be able to make it to the end,” she says.
The payoff is that the work is an exhilarating experience for all concerned.
“There is nowhere to hide, when you’re in front of a 100-piece orchestra. It’s that moment, and that’s the great thing about live performance,” she said. “It’s so exhilarating for you and the audience because you’re 100 per cent in that moment.”
The piano for Tamara-Anna was at first a toy, growing up in a household where her mother taught the instrument.
“I used to jump on top of the grand piano and think it was the most fun thing ever. I worked out years later that all the music I had been hearing came from these big playthings,” she says.
Tamara-Anna says the piano can be many things and offers an incredibly broad palette.
“If you do it well enough you can transport people in a way that few other other solo instruments can,” she says.
Tamara-Anna has listened to recordings of Prokofiev himself playing and finds it achingly beautiful and lyrical.
“Like most of the Russian tradition, no matter what’s going on there is always melody at the heart of it. That’s what draws us to Russian music, it’s so vocal,” she says.
Russia is the inspiration for the CSO’s first outing this year in the ActewAGL Llewellyn series at Llewellyn Hall.
The CSO says the concert’s program presents a stimulating mix of contemporary Australian and Russian orchestral masterworks, with the works of Australian composers Carl Vine and Elana Kats-
Chernin showcasing the orchestra in a unique way, and the Soviet commissioned 9th symphony of Shostakovich treating audiences to satirical humour and irony rather than the expected military
triumph and heroism of the time.
Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2 remains one of the most technically difficult in the standard repertoire and the CSO’s Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Nicholas Milton says Tamara-Anna is a wonderful artist.
“I’ve watched her grow over the last 25 years, and she is really an inspiring performer,” he said.
The CSO will be under the baton of rising star conductor Dane Lam, considered one of the most talented young conductors Australia has ever produced. Lam is currently Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of China’s Xi’an Symphony Orchestra, and boasts a resume that has taken him across four continents.
Tamara-Anna will also be performing in a recital at Wesley Music Centre on 18 February.
For more information and tickets go to https://cso.org.au/events/