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BWW Reviews: LOLA ASTANOVA Gives Stunning Tribute to Horowitz

Donning gorgeous sequins gowns and dripping in $850,000 worth of Tiffany Jewels, sexy 26-year-old Uzbekistan-born pianist and YouTube sensation, Lola Astanova, made her Carnegie Hall debut in "A Tribute to Horowitz" performance which left the sold-out audience as dazzled as her diamonds. Playing on the legendary Horowitz Steinway #CD503, the most famous in the world, Lola graced the keys with her undeniable beauty and unrelenting passion in pure Horowitz form. Franz Mohr, who was Horowitz's traveling piano technician, even came out of retirement to tune and prepare this famous Steinway beauty.

Of course, wherever there is a beautiful woman, you will find Donald Trump, who was the Gala Chairman of the evening, and generously donated $100,000 to kick off collections for the American Cancer Society. Special Guest Artist Host, Julie Andrews, also appeared, and gave a very humbling, inspirational speech about the healing power of the arts and specifically, music. More American Cancer Society representatives followed, who presented Lifetime Achievement Awards to both Mr. Trump and Ms. Andrews, and finally we were underway.... or were we?

Walking through the aisles and onto the stage was the Stonewall Chorale and Melodia Women's Choir, who sang "Love Changes Everything," "Moscow Nights," and finally "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" (perhaps as a tribute to Julie Andrews). Although beautifully performed, the long anticipation of Lola Astanova was too great, who finally appeared 45 minutes into the evening... But what a memorable entrance she made!

Wearing a stunning black sequins gown with Jimmy Choo stilettos at her feet, Lola strutted the stage of Carnegie Hall as if it were a Paris catwalk. Kicking off the program, she caught everyone a little off-guard, who quickly rose to their feet when she played a rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner." Although a nice tribute to her American audience, Vladimir Horowitz was most known for his encores of "Stars and Stripes Forever," not the National Anthem. Nonetheless, paying tribute to Horowitz, Lola chose miniature pieces from the greatest composers of the 19th Century Romantic era -- Frederic Chopin, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Alexander Scriabin.

Beginning with Chopin's Nocturne Op. 62, No. 1, Lola was poised and controlled, seducing the keys with her grace and charm, and posing provocatively with exaggerated movements between rests and at the end of the pieces. Chopin's Scherzo No. 2 as well as the final movement, Presto, both showed off her technical skills, and quickly put to rest any hesitation that this Russian beauty has more than just sex appeal.

Unfortunately, her ostentation, however, didn't pay off during Chopin's third movement, Funeral March. Lola lacked the eerie, daunting quality and perhaps played it a little too forcefully, instead of allowing the natural dark tones, slow tempo, and crescendos to carry the piece along.

After intermission, an exquisite Lola returned on stage with newfound confidence. Back in her element with Russian composers, she was overflowing with expressiveness and fluency as she mastered all three Rachmaninoff pieces and the two Etudes of Alexander Scriabin. Her gorgeous tonal breadth and lush lyricism exuded brilliantly as she played with complete elegance and grace. Aside from the controversial over-the-top sexiness and YouTube hype is just a woman and a piano. Pure. Simple. Beautiful. The serene, solemn moments where she wasn't arching her back, throwing her arm aside, or making grandiose gestures were some of the most potent. This was especially true in Chopin's Etude Op. 25, No. 12, as the audience was taken through a musical journey of passion, fulfillment, and emotional transformation, all leading up to Lola's climatic "gasp" at the final note.

Unfortunately, however, a big part of the audience missed these magnificent pieces as they left at intermission. The ones who remained seemed to forget to turn off their cell phones, as I noted eight various ringtones breaking up the flow of the evening's program. This is completely unforgivable and gives reason why Lola must resort to her sexuality since clearly the general public can't sit through an evening of pure classical masterpieces.

Overall, the night was a huge success as Lola Astanova proved that she's more than just a sexy YouTube sensation. She is overflowing with passion, creative energy, ingenuity, and technical interpretation which no doubt would have made Vladimir Horowitz incredibly proud, not to mention the American Cancer Society.

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From This Author Christina Mancuso