Young pianist dazzles at Phelps Mansion

Anastasia Rizikov, a 10-year-old Canadian-born pianist, raised more than one pair of eyebrows last weekend at her second appearance in Binghamton. Presented by the organization “Classical Pianists of the Future,” this phenomenon of nature left her audience dazzled. Child prodigies are always exciting to hear, and Rizikov delivered the goods.

When she opened with J.S. Bach’s “Italian Concerto in F Major,” audience members immediately immediately were struck by her total commitment and by technical skills that are impeccable for one so young. Even more intriguing was her ability to evoke such emotion from such varied pieces, demonstrating a complete understanding of her repertoire.

Franz Liszt’s “Concert Etude No. 2” (“Gnomenreigen”) was a tour de force. Rizikov’s sprightly playing of this delightful and not commonly played piece left the audience frenzied.  The ‘Dance of the Gnomes’ truly was magical; her skill at fast passage work was truly wonderful. More impressive yet, she insists that all of her performances be memorized.

Following the Liszt, three evocative and instantly recognizable stylistic pieces by George Gershwin were presented. Three  preludes — “No. 1 in B flat Major,” “No. 2 in C sharp Minor” and “No. 3 in E flat Minor” — transported listeners to that wonderful era when George and Ira Gershwin practically wrote the American songbook. Each piece is so different but so identifiable to Gershwin’s writing, and Rizikov performed all three with marvelous feeling and interpretation. For one so young, this is a true accomplishment.

Closing her first half was a work by the very rarely heard composer Pylyp Iosypovych Bryl whose “Concert Fantasia on Ukranian Melodies” is a kaleidoscope of color. Extremely difficult playing with countless arpeggios and spot-on passage work left no doubt as to the very bright future of Anastasia Rizikov.

My regret is that sadly, due to another committment, I had to miss the second half of the concert, which was the “Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21” by Chopin. Let it suffice to say that this talent is rare. Trained by both her mother and grandmother at a young age (I know, how much younger can you get!), she currently studies with Maia Spis at the Nadia Music School in Toronto.

The lovely Phelps Mansion Ballroom made a delightful venue although the seating was more confined than the Tri-Cities Opera Center where Classical Pianists of the Future usually presents. It was a magical afternoon by a young lady who will no doubt, achieve world acclaim on all the greatest stages.

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