Monday 29 April 2013


If one is asked who are the two most prominent Ukrainians in the public eye today, chances are the names of Andriy Shevchenko (former Dinamo Kyiv, AC Milan and Chelsea striker) and Valentina Lisitsa (platinum blonde pianist extraordinaire) might appear, especially if you follow football and the piano. When asked who are the two most prominent Ukrainian musicians in Singapore, they would have to be oboist Vladyslav Shevchenko and pianist Kseniia Vokhmianina, both of whom are presently students at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. (NAFA). 

Their joint recital at Steinway Gallery Singapore on Saturday evening (27 April 2013) was a treat because of  their maturity of musicianship and virtuosity. Let us not forget that Horowitz, Richter, Gilels and Krainev were all from the Ukraine, so it obviously has to do with the water and upbringing (let's forget about Chernobyl for the moment). Shevchenko (student of Pan Yun)  is the star oboist of the NAFA Orchestra while Vokhmianina (student of Boris Kraljevic) was the 3rd Prize winner of the National Piano Competition in 2011 (not bad considering former 3rd prize winners have included Shaun Choo, Albert Lin and Keegan Ng).

The concert opened with the little single-movement Oboe Concerto in E flat major attributed to Mozart. Shevchenko brought out a sleek and elegant sound in the slow introduction, and the virtuosic twists and turns in the Allegro held no terrors for him. This is as assured a performance one can hope to get. 

Vokhmianina performed the entire Schumann First Sonata in F# minor (Op.11), combining both intellect and brawn. Her technique held up superbly in this very tricky and rather repetitive work. The fact she did not come to grief in the circuitous finale speaks well of her concentration, memory and reserve. A polished and powerful performance all round. 

A closer view of Kseniia's hands.

Steinway Gallery was very well filled for this recital. The other major work was Poulenc's poignant Oboe Sonata of 1962, which was written in memory of Prokofiev, who was himself born in the Ukraine. The performance was marvellous, full of fantasy while conveying a sense of regret and loss. The oboe seems to be the perfect instrument for bringing out those kinds of emotions.

After Debussy's Menuet from Suite Bergamasque, the duo played a delightful encore - the dreamy Capriccio by Ukrainian composer Ludmilla Shukailo. 

Our Ukrainian virtuosi receiving their well-earned applause.

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