Union Arts Center proudly presents pianist Irena Portenko celebrating her Versus recording of Tchaikovsky's First and Prokofiev's Second Piano Concerti featuring the Ukrainian National Orchestra led by Conductor Volodymyr Sirenko on Saturday, November 12th at 7:30pm. The evening will feature musical offerings by Ms. Portenko joined by soprano Elisabeth Halliday, saxophonist JorDan Smith, pianist Svetlana Gorokhovich, pianist Sergei Kvitko and cellist Nargiza Yusupova in works by Logan Skelton, Richard Cameron-Wolfe, Ellwood Derr, Joelle Wallach, Lu Pei and Sergei Rachmaninoff, alongside poetry by Zan Skelton and an art exhibit by Jeannette Doné-Lagemann.

Saturday, November 12, 2016
Pre-concert 7pm / program begins at 7:30pm
Union Arts Center
2 Union Avenue, Sparkill, NY 10976

Tickets: $30 Advance; $35 Door

An evening of music, poetry, and visual art with:

Irena Portenko, piano
Elisabeth Halliday, soprano
JorDan Smith, saxophone
Svetlana Gorokhovich, piano
Nargiza Yusupova, cello
Sergei Kvitko, piano


"Skelton Songs" for Soprano and Piano by Logan Skelton

Poetry by Zan Skelton

"Roerich-Rhapsody" for Cello and Piano by Richard Cameron-Wolfe

"I never Saw Another Butterfly" for Soprano, Saxophone and Piano by Ellwood Derr

"Summer Synchrony" for One Piano Four Hands by Joelle Wallach

"In the Depth of the Clouds" for Saxophone and Piano by Lu Pei

"Waltz" and "Romance" for Six Hands and Sonata for Cello and Piano by Sergei Rachmaninoff

Portenko on the Program:
"The concert on November 12th is just another way of celebrating my CD release. Instead of making a huge party, I have spoken to my dear friends and asked them to be part of my festivities. Pieces on the program, except for Rachmaninoff's are those by my friends, colleagues, etc. The performers are very special, "hand-picked" musicians, from NYC, NJ, MI, and from Germany.

The CD is called "Versus", that signifies the contrast between pieces on the release, as well as those on the concert. In their music, composers become reminiscent of various moments in their lives - events, places, visited and, people - who are far away or no longer alive. I find the music to be engaging and beautiful. This can relate to anyone in the audience or beyond the concert hall.

Also, the CD was recorded in 2013, special anniversary years of Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. The reason for putting Rachmaninoff's music on the program was that he also had a special anniversary in 2013. And, just to be done with all the anniversaries, my grandfather's 100th anniversary was also in 2013. Even though he is no longer living, I wanted to do something special in his memory."


S. Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 2 in g minor, Op. 16
01 I Andantino-Allegretto? 13:34
02 II Scherzo: Vivace? 2:56
03 III Intermezzo: Allegro moderato 8:17
04 IV Finale: Allegro tempestoso 12:26

P.I. Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 in b flat minor, Op. 23

05 I Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso - Allegro con spirit 22:01
06 II Andantino semplice - Allegro vivace assai/Prestissimo 6:51
07 III Allegro con fuoco 7:10

Notes on Versus by Christian Carey:

In a recent conversation, Irena Portenko said, "In 2013, I played several concertos with orchestra: including Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, and Prokofiev. I decided to record?Tchaikovsky's first and Prokoviev's?second concertos. It turns out that I need both of these concertos in my life. The darkness of the Prokoviev needs to be balanced by something, and the Tchaikovsky has an uplifting quality. I was surprised how affected I was by both of these pieces."

Indeed, the two concertos demonstrate very different sides of Portenko's pianism. The tender lyricism and mercurial virtuosity of her playing in Tchaikovsky's First Concerto is juxtaposed with the terse utterances and fortissimo outbursts found in Prokofiev's Second Concerto.

Portenko says, "2013 was an anniversary year of sorts. Tchaikovsky died in 1893 and Prokofiev in 1953. This gave me yet another reason to see these concertos side by side."

Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 was premiered in Boston in 1875. And although he claimed that the early version of the piece he showed in 1874 to the composer-pianist Nikolay Rubinstein required few subsequent changes, there is evidence that the piece actually endured several edits over subsequent years. Prokofiev's second concerto had an even more protracted genesis. Composed in 1912, the original version of the score was lost during the Russian Revolution. Prokoviev returned to the piece in the early 1920's, completely reconstituting its score. The composer was quick to admit that, given its extensive reworking, it might as easily be called the fourth concerto as the second!

Both pieces feature innovations for their time. The outsized first movement of the Tchaikovsky is bursting with melodies and long lines and a fascinatingly elaborate take on the Sonata Allegro form. Some of the "great tunes" one gets to hear merely once, such as the lovely introduction of the first movement.?Another famous, and famously challenging, aspect of the Tchaikovsky is the plethora of double octaves, here limpidly rendered by Portenko. Prokofiev's concerto fits in with the early modernism of Stravinsky, allowing for extended piano cadences to take up residence alongside bumptious orchestral interludes. There is a human aspect to the piece's program as well. It is dedicated to Maximilian Anatolievich Schmidthof, a friend of Prokofiev's who was one of the composer's confidants during the piece's genesis - Prokofiev played him several excerpts from the work-in-progress.

One thing that unifies her vision of these recordings is Portenko's ability to see things afresh. This is particularly important with the Tchaikovsky concerto, one of the great warhorses of the Romantic era that has been performed and recorded innumerable times. Prokofiev's concertos, while not possessing the prominence of Tchaikovsky's, are not languishing in obscurity either. "Even though I have played these pieces many times, I always treat them as if I am experiencing the concertos for the first time. Historically speaking, audiences accepted neither piece at first, but each has elements that have, with time, won them over. The Tchaikovsky's long lines and memorable melodies and the Prokofiev, a piece that is something like an Olympic record, with relentless intensity and technical hoops."

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