'Rising star' Natasha Paremski to perform Shostakovich piano concerto with York Symphony

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch
Pianist Natasha Paremski will release a new album Friday, Jan. 18, featuring her performances of "Pictures at an Exhibition," by Modest Mussorgsky, and "Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky," by Fred Hersch.

The first time Natasha Paremski performed the Piano Concerto No. 2 by Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, it was under the direction of the composer's son, pianist and conductor Maxim Shostakovich.

"He didn’t speak very much English at all, and I’m fluent in Russian, obviously, so we were able to connect on the language," Paremski said.

That was 10 years ago. Now, the young pianist will bring the concerto to a York audience.

Paremski, who was born in Moscow in 1987 and began her studies there before moving to the United States, will perform Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the York Symphony Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, at the Appell Center for the Performing Arts, 50 N. George St.

Shostakovich wrote the piece for his son, Maxim, who premiered the work in 1957 at his graduation from the Moscow Conservatory.

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Paremski said there are some works, such as the later Beethoven sonatas, that require a performer to pick apart an intricate puzzle or go on a "gargantuan journey" before he or she can settle into an interpretation.

Natasha Paremski, a world-renowned Russian-American pianist, will perform the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 2 with the York Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, Jan. 19.

But this concerto, Paremski said, is fairly straightforward.

"With this piece, it really, truly was designed for Maxim," she said. "He was not this kind of crazy virtuoso, so I think (Shostakovich) tailored the virtuosity so that his son felt comfortable enough to play it."

The first movement opens with a playful line in the wind section followed by the piano entrance, in which the listener can almost hear a mischievous grin.

Paremski said she sees similarities between this work and Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 1, particularly with regard to the slower second movement.

"The slow movement is incredibly poignant, very lyrical and very simple, but very touching and very nostalgic and very sad in a way," she said. "And then that gives way to, you know, a very humorous last movement."

Celebrating heroes: The Saturday program is based on the theme of "National Heroes," fitting with the overall Heroes theme of the orchestra's 2018-19 season. The two other works on the program are Symphony No. 2 by Jean Sibelius, who is widely regarded as a cultural hero in his homeland of Finland, and "Make Gentle the Life of This World" by American composer Raymond Horton.

The Horton piece takes its name from an impromptu speech delivered by presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy on April 4, 1968, the day Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

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Lawrence Golan, music director at the YSO, said the Shostakovich concerto fits perfectly with the rest of the program, as the late Russian composer is lauded in his homeland as well.

Golan also spoke highly of Paremski.

"She’s a real rising star in the piano world," Golan said. "Given that she’s originally from Moscow, I thought it would be a perfect fit to come and play this Russian piano concerto from Shostakovich."

Personal heroes: In the summer of 2018, Paremski lost a very dear mentor, a man she referred to as her second father, to cancer.

Charles Hamlen, known throughout the classical music world for his ability to recognize talent and his shepherding of some of the world's greatest classical musicians, was Paremski's agent.

She described him as "the last great impresario" and said his fingerprints are all over her career.

Natasha Paremski, a world-renowned Russian-American pianist, said she listens to old school jazz to unwind after a long day of practicing the piano.

"I lost my father seven years ago to cancer, and then losing Charlie was like losing my father all over again," Paremski said. "Now, I just feel like I actually carry both of them with me on stage, and I’m somehow metaphysically actually closer to them now than I was when they were physically tangible and alive."

Paremski said her next album, set to be released on Friday, Jan. 18, would not have happened if not for Hamlen.

The album includes a performance of "Pictures at an Exhibition" by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky and "Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky," composed specifically for Paremski by American jazz pianist Fred Hersch.

Paremski said it was Hamlen who introduced her to Hersch, and she dedicated the new album to Hamlen.

"He had this way of just tapping into an artist’s strength, and he was sincerely beloved by all of his artists," she said.

If you go: Pianist Natasha Paremski will perform the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 2 with the York Symphony Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, at the Appell Center for the Performing Arts.

Standard ticket prices range from $9 to $45, with student tickets available for $5.

For more information, call 717-846-1111 or visit yorksymphony.org.