Saturday, November 05, 2005

Tatiana Berman makes her North American concert debut!

Tatiana Berman (photo by Yuri Komka)

Don't miss this special opportunity Sunday afternoon to hear the North American debut of this very special artist!

Tania plus Anna equals beautiful music
By Mary Ellyn Hutton
Cincinnati Post, November 3, 2005

Tania and Anna. A duo in the works?

Perhaps, said violinist Tatiana Berman and pianist Anna Polusmiak before rehearsing last week at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington.

"We are talking about it," said Berman, exchanging laughter with Polusmiak over the chronic mismatch of their schedules.

"When I'm here, she's busy. When I'm not here, she's not busy," said Berman, who is often away from Cincinnati with her partner, Cincinnati Symphony music director Paavo Järvi, and their 20-month-old daughter Lea.

Berman and Polusmiak, twentysomethings who share the Russian language, abundant talent and drop dead good looks, make their debut together at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Cathedral.

On the program are Beethoven's "Kreutzer" Sonata, Arvo Pärt's ethereal "Spiegel im Spiegel" ("Mirror in the Mirror") and Debussy's Sonata for Violin and Piano.

Admission is free.

Born in Kharkiv, Ukraine - on the Russian border where Russian is customarily spoken - Polusmiak, 22, is known to area audiences for her performances with the Cincinnati Symphony at Riverbend, Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, Kentucky Symphony and ensembles and artists at Northern Kentucky University, where she studied with her father, Sergei Polusmiak.

She will make her CSO Music Hall debut April 27-29 in Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini," Järvi conducting.

Berman, 25, was born in Moscow and grew up in St. Petersburg. Her father, Yuri, is a pianist. Her mother, who died when she was 12, played the domra (a Russian folk instrument similar to the balalaika) and was a member of St. Petersburg's famous Andreyev Orchestra.

There are many parallels in the women's lives. Both grew up in the former Soviet Union and began studying music at an early age.

Tania (short for Tatiana) chose the violin at 4. "My father was playing a recital with a violinist. After that I was nagging him to give me a violin."

An uncle came up with the money, and she enrolled in the Specialized Music School in St. Petersburg."

Anna can't remember exactly how or when she began to play piano, but she was 6 when she entered Kharkiv Special Music School for Gifted Children.

At 11 she became a pupil of her father, a professor at Kharkiv Conservatory. She has been his student ever since.

Both women have competition victories to their credit. Berman won third prize in the International Violin Competition in Kloster-Schontal, Germany, at 12.

She got sick before her finals, but played anyway. "I had a big temperature and it was kind of a struggle, but it was an interesting experience, my first time."

After the competition, she toured Lithuania, and at 14, won a scholarship to the Yehudi Menuhin School near London.

She had master classes with the legendary Menuhin and was one of the soloists on the 1996 "Classic FM" CD issue "Yehudi Menuhin's Young Virtuosi."

"I went to his house once to have a lesson for the Bach Double Concerto. He was doing yoga upside down against the wall." Berman preferred soccer to yoga ("boring") and excelled in it at the Menuhin School.

At 18, she won a Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London, where she earned undergraduate and graduate degrees and performed extensively in Europe and the U.K.

Competition was a way of life for her in London. "I did quite a few of the scholarship type - they are like small competitions. You get concerts or sponsorship for your studies. I supported myself completely through all my studies."

Polusmiak, who came to the U.S. with her family in 1998, has performed on both sides of the Atlantic and taken prizes in numerous piano competitions. Last month, she won first prize in the inaugural Louisiana International Piano Competition (held in Alexandria, La., an area not devastated by the recent hurricanes). Her prize includes a trip to Russia in June, where she will perform Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic and record a solo CD in Moscow.

Studying with her father is all "pluses" and no "minuses," she said. "It's so natural for us to work together. You can talk about your profession any time you want. He can give me still so many things."

Anna graduated from NKU last spring. She teaches in NKU's Prep Department and has private students, including her 9-year-old brother Sergei. She will continue on the competition route, she said, "but I'm very open to different possibilities. It's very hard to plan something in a music career."

Lea, born three months before Berman's master's recital in London, has brought "huge happiness to me," she said. "I am very blessed. Life just seems much fuller, everything.

"We have a fantastic babysitter (Anna's mother), so I get to do my things. Mornings are my practice time. Then afternoons are ours."

Berman calls Järvi "the most supportive person I have ever known. He is very generous in giving his advice, and I don't ever feel that I don't have time to do my own thing."


Violinist Tatiana Berman and pianist Anna Polusmiak make their debut together at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, 1140 Madison Ave.,

Covington. Admission is free. Information: (859) 431-2060.

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