By Iride Aparicio

Photos Courtesy: The Steinway Society

SILICON VALLEY-- Born in Moscow, American pianist Natasha Parenski continues, in the United States, the legacy of  her  outstanding Russian Piano Playing School,  Heinrich Neuhaus, where she studied as a child. Now, in  the Chamber Music World she is know as a "Passionate Chamber Musician of Music Recitals" and she had recorded a number of CDs with partner Grammy-winning Cellist Zuill Bailey. In The Concert World, Parenski is known as a  pianist with  such a laudable control of her instrument, that her first recital was released to the market under the Steinway and Son's label and, when the album debuted, it climbed to No.1 on the Billboard's Classical Charts and remained  there for a couple of weeks. This month, as  part of the 28th Season of piano concerts sponsored by the Steinway Society The Bay Area, Parenski  performed in Silicon Valley  in a Live concert, which was also livest reamed  live.

On the night of her concert (December 6 at 7:30) as her name was announced to the audience and the stage was lighted, Parenski walked on the stage, a few minutes later, dressed in a short form-fitting gold-color dress, wearing white shoes with high heels, with her long blond hair falling over her back and bouncing on her shoulders.  She Bowed  to the audience walked to the piano, sat on the piano bench and began playing.


The first part of her two-part concert was focused  on  the music of  Fréderik Chopin starting with Barcarolle in F-sharp Major Op. 60.

The name Barcarolle is Italian and  translated it means  barca, which is a small, narrow row boat. But  in Italy, Barcarolle is also the name they use to describe the songs that the Gondoliers  (men who paddle the gondolas in the narrow channels in Venice ) sing as they paddle their boats, because the songs' rhythm,  matches perfectly the swaying of the channels' waves.   
Britanica defines Barcarolle (A musical piece) as "A work where the music is characterized by a gentle rhythm simulating the motion of a boat sailing in chopping waters" and explains that their Tempo is usually written in 6/8 time, and that the entire composition alternates strong and light beats with a moderate triple figure. Completed in l846, (three years before his death) Chopin's Barcarolle Op.60, is one of his final works. The piece is built around a beautiful melody, (theme) that when we hear it, its tempo, brings to our mind  the swaying movement of  the soft waves in the narrow channels in Venice.

At the concert, After a few introductory chords,  played in the left hand alone, we  listen to the  melody  (theme) introduced softly  by the pianist's  right hand, played alone in the upper keys of the piano, before it starts being accompanied by an ostenatto chord played on the left hand. After being introduced, the theme begins moving around to other parts of the keyboard, similar, in structure, to the theme of a Fugue, and slightly changing  its sound as it moves around. It adds notes to its original melody; it is played at a faster or at a slower Tempo, than it was played before; it alters a few notes; it is heard in a different part of the keyboard; or it is embellished by a series of fast thrills, or fast ascending and descending scales. Its dynamics  also changing alternating from louder to softer and in each version the theme sounding slightly different. At the end of the piece, the Original theme returns to the lower keyboard, and after a series of  fast ascending and descending scales, it ends.

In its execution, Parenski made each version of the  piece, sound different, and she interpreted each one with sensitivity. She also mastered the dynamics of the piece, specially when playing  the fast running up and down scales with the volume changing from Piano to Forte or vice versa. We could also add that Parensky's  fingers digitalization is so accurate that it allows her audience to hear, clearly, the sound of every single note her fingers touch.

For the  middle part of the  first part of her program, the pianist selected Chopin's and British Composer Thomas Adés (Born in 1971) Mazurkas. The Mazurka in B Major, Op. 63, No 1, Adés, Mazurka, Op. 27, No 1, Mazurka in F Minor Op 63, No2, Adés Mazurka , Op 27 No 3, Chopin, Mazurka in C-sharp Minor, Op. 63 No. 3.  

The Mazurka is the Polish National dance, Chopin being Polish, wrote a set of Mazurkas for piano.  Musically, the Mazurkas may be written on 3/4 or 3/8 time, depending on how fast the composer wants it to be danced, and the music accent is always on the second beat. When danced, the Mazurka  is characterized by the stomping of feet, the clicking of heels and a proud carrying of the upper body.

Not always accented on their second beat, Parenski played each one of her Mazurkas seamlessly,  She mastered all the fast passages, the changes in volume and speed, and their fast running scales up and down the keyboard, that her long fingers and fast digitalization made possible for the audience to hear clearly every single note. Her changes in volume were good. She mastered its difficulties in each one of them, and her interpretation was correct.

In this part of her program, however, the piece where she excelled, was playing the Chopin's Scherzo at the end. The musical features of the Scherzos are a 3/4 meter, rapid speed, vigorous rhythm and elements of "surprise."  The Scherzos were regarded at one time as a musical piece which was "not serious enough music." and used as "ornamental" music. So, for a while, the Scherzos were  added by composers like Beethoven,  to the third movement of Sonatas, symphonies and Quartets.

During the second part of his concert, Parenski changed Music Styles to the l9th Century by playing Maurice Ravel's (l875-l937) Gaspard de la Nuit, I. Ondine, II. Le Gibet and III. Scarbo. She ended her concert with Mily Exelevich Balakirev's  (l836-l910)  Islamey: Oriental Fantasy, Op l8. a Russian composer, pianist and conductor primarily known today for his work promoting  Russian musical nationalism.

ONDINE.  If we know that ondine is a name given to a water sprite, we fully could picture it in our minds as we hear Ravel's piece of that name, where his thrills on the high notes of the piano give us the impression of  thousands of falling drops of water, and his fast running scales produce in our ears an esoteric sound which elevate us to a higher plane.  At the end of the piece, when to get the correct sound the pianist needs to slide her longs extended fingers over the upper keyboard from left to right very fast, the effect was marvelous.

LE GIBET  a noun which may be translated as the Gibbet or gallows in English, was also masterly interpreted by Parenski. And here we could say interpreted, not played, because to play Ravel's music correctly, it requires great sensitivity on the part of the pianist, because  Ravel, drew  his musical ideas studying the music of many generations of  French composers, and at the end, became himself  a master  impressionistic composer of an original and bold style of music in which he actually managed to "describe scenes" using musical sounds, and  LE GIBET which in French means a gallows, and Ravel wrote in 1909 based on the poem by Aloysius Bertrand, in which he described the hanging of a man, may be one of them. So, to be able to interpret the gruesome scene to an audience, musically, requires interpretation on the part of the pianist. Le Gibet's  first notes, imitate tolling bells. Their ostenatto sound is soon paired with a sad, soft melody. As the tolling bell continues, in counterpoint, the upper notes play a sorrowful melody in the upper keyboard that we may describe as a sob, or as a soft cry, because it is played Pianisimo, in the highest notes of the piano, as the bell continues tolling in the background.  Le Gibet, is a moving piece of music, in which Ravel used not only his technique as composer, but also his imaginative genius. This time, it was interpreted with not only the correct technique, but with the necessary sensitivity by Parenski.

Her following piece was SCARBO which is considered  the hardest Virtuoso piano  piece  ever written for the keyboard. It was written by Ravel, in l908,  with the intention  to make it even more difficult to play that Balakirev's Islamey. Because of it, Ravel include many technical challenges and a profound musical structure when he wrote the piece,  making Scarbo one of the most difficult piano pieces to play. The piece requires technique and a complete control of the piano. because Scarbo, in French, means Gobling, so the piece represents the sounds and movements of a mischievous gobling who laughs, runs, jumps hides walks, and each one of his actions are represented by the music. To indicate his running, for instance, the music plays with running up and down scales. When he shouts, the music plays loud, and because he is moving constantly, the music is played all over the keyboard, and requires constantly changes of dynamics. Being able to play it, requires hands crossing, fast arpeggios, up and down scales, and soft and very loud chords. Above all a good memory, and a perfect coordination of hands. Parenski played seamlesly.

And if to demonstrate her complete mastery of the piano, Parenski, ended her concert with another extremely difficult piece, which is Russian composer  Mily Balakirev (1837-1910) Islamey" Oriental Fantasy, Op. 18,  (The piece that Ravel was trying to outdid) and which is another Virtuoso piano concert piece which requires, among other things, a perfect dexterity of the fingers. The piece also has fast  running scales, arpeggios, hands crossings and changes of dynamics, so, to be able to play it, as written, and sound as the composers wanted it to sound, demands the absolute control of  her instrument by the pianist. Because of her masterful interpretation of the two most difficult piano pieces in a single concert, we could say that Natasha Parenski,s concert was unique.  She managed to bring to life again, the music of ChopinRavel, Adés,  and Balakirev.

For information and to purchase tickets for future concerts in the Steinway Society Bay Area 28th Season Concert Series go to: