A few weeks ago we reviewed a piano recital by the phenomenally gifted 14-year-old Sergiy Komirenko. Last Monday, in St. Mary’s Pittman Auditorium, we discovered that he does not come alone: His 13-year-old sister, Olena, is a violinist of equally formidable talent. A student of Brian Reagin, concertmaster of the North Carolina Symphony, she recently won first prize in the Winston-Salem Symphony Talent Search and will perform with the symphony as soloist next year.
The program consisted of solo piano works, played by Sergiy, works for violin and piano, and finally, a Brahms piano trio with the Komirenko siblings joined by cellist Jonathan Kramer. Beginning the concert with the opening movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in D Major, Op.10, No.3, Sergiy showed the same weaknesses he exhibited in his recital some weeks back: trying to play as fast as possible, making his fingers stumble in the process, and mostly ignoring or abbreviating the rests. Despite these flaws, he demonstrated a better sense of dynamics and large musical form. Perhaps the Beethoven betrayed an initial nervousness because he really began to show his stuff in Quejas o la mujer y el ruise (Laments, or The Lady and the Nightingale) from Goyescas by Granados. Like the other movements of Goyescas, this piece is particularly challenging because of the subtle variations in mood. Sergiy’s performance revealed unusual sensitivity to the languid melancholy and sensuous phrasing. Equally well conceived were the two etudes by Scriabin, especially the one in D Major, Op.8, No.10, again, the slower one.
Olena picked up the violin at age 8, after first studying piano. Because of her diminutive size she still has to play on a reduced-size violin, a factor that greatly hampers her tone; her instrument simply refuses to sing, especially in the lower register. Nevertheless, she has outstanding intonation and dynamic control as well as a sensibility for the music. She will have to develop somewhat better control of her bowing arm in order to finish off sustained notes less abruptly. With her brother, Olena performed the opening movement of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata in A Major, (“Kreutzer”), the Kreisler transcription of Gluck’s Dance of the Blessed Spirits from the opera Orfeo ed Euridice, and a violin and piano reduction of Wieniawsky’s Second Violin Concerto. She is definitely a match for her brother in technique, and especially in musical sensitivity.
It was in the second half that their potential was best demonstrated. Together with cellist Jonathan Kramer, who is their chamber music coach, they performed one of the standards of chamber music, the Piano Trio in C Major, Op.87, by Brahms. This is a big work, requiring lots of stamina, and a bear both technically and musically. Olena in particular showed a maturity of approach far beyond her years. It is interesting to note that when performing with his sister, Sergiy appears extremely conscious of the fact he is only part of a greater whole. He continually watched his partners for visual as well as aural cues, a mature approach to ensemble playing that permits maximum flexibility and spontaneity in performance and, in this case, ensured that he never overpowered the violin.
This concert was just a sample of the abundance of young talent in the Triangle. The Raleigh, Durham and North Carolina symphony orchestras each run their own annual competitions for promising young musicians, giving the best of the lot a chance to show their skill in public. The most important thing we, the public, can do to support and encourage these young musicians is to attend their public concerts. It is amazing how good many of them are and hearing them play can be a musically exhilarating experience. No jaded performances there! Unfortunately, these concerts are frequently not well advertised and you have to hunt through the calendar to find them.