Romancing the keys

Pianist creates musical celebration for her inspiration, Russian composer Tchaikovsky.

July 08, 2009|By Joyce Rudolph

Classical music pianist and teacher Angela Cholakyan will be true to her Russian roots Saturday when she performs the work of Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky in a concert in West Hollywood.

The La Crescenta resident will also be mistress of ceremonies for the concert she coordinated that features five singers and violinist, she said.

“I wanted it to cover his Romances,” she said, describing Romances as short vocal compositions that are more like chamber music than opera, but based on poems.


“Tchaikovsky used Russian poetry when he was writing Romances,” she said. “An opera is more of a complete story and they are 2 to 2 1/2 hours long. They are instrumental music written for certain instruments.”

The program features only Tchaikovsky music.

Cholakyan will be playing solo pieces for piano, and she will play duos with a violinist on pieces that are written for violin accompanied by piano.

“He has such a variety of music written, and he is [one of the] greatest composers in Russian history,” she said. “His work is always played in major halls throughout America.”

Hyunsoo Lee, who is a private student of the pianist, will be at the concert Saturday.

“She’s one of my favorite performers because her playing is very sensitive and moving,” she said. “I’ve heard her play Chopin and Schumann. My favorite was Chopin.”

As she introduces the pieces, Cholakyan will tell a story about Tchaikovsky, his personality and how it’s interwoven into the music he was writing.

“There are many controversies about his personality and mysteries about his death,” she said. “The pieces we chose will be demonstrating what I’m saying.”

One example is the piece called “Romance.” It’s written for solo piano and is dedicated to a famous opera singer of his time — Désirée Artôt. It was written in 1868, when Tchaikovsky was 28, and was one of his early compositions, she said.

“Tchaikovsky was in love with her,” Cholakyan said. “There were conversations going on about his engagement to her. Some of his friends warned him — he was not a famous composer, but she was very famous, enjoying a concert career all over Europe. He wanted to marry her, but she broke off the engagement suddenly and married a famous Spanish singer.”

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