The Malta Independent 29 September 2021, Wednesday

Marie's Diary: A gifted young pianist at San Anton Palace

Marie Benoît Monday, 30 May 2016, 15:01 Last update: about 6 years ago

Talent and beauty are two coveted gifts which are given randomly. Often, parents who cannot be considered good looking produce a beautiful child (and vice-versa). A couple neither of whom possesses a particular gift have a child who is a talented musician, or scientist or writer.  In the case of the young Dmitry Ishkhanov, neither of his parents, unlike say, the lad from Salzburg, Mozart, enthroned as the deity of music or the Bach family, had much to do with music. At the age of 11 years he has a curriculum vitae worthy of a much older pianist.

He was invited to play at San Anton Palace last week, arranged, I am told, through the good offices of Alan Chircop. I was expecting a young Russian man perhaps, with golden locks and slav eyes, a kind of modern Tchaikovsky - I hadn't yet looked at the programme. But lo and behold who should take the bow if not a little 11-year-old with dark hair and intense dark eyes, a red bowtie and black suit. Confident in his playing Dmitry gave us great pleasure and very generously, three encores. It was not an easy programme either. Starting with J.S. Bach's Prelude and Fugue in C minor. Bach was a fan of two things, coffee and numbers. Lots of his pieces play games with numbers, inaudibly. I remember the late Professor Edwin Borg Constanzi, a mathematician, being very keen on Bach.

Next came the First Movement of Beethovan's Piano Sonata No. 5 in C. Minor. A pianist friend told me that when you conquered the Hammerklavier (Beethovan's piano sonata No. 29, Op. 106) you had climbed Everest. As far as I am concerned for a young boy to play so well and be so relaxed about it is climbing Everest anyway. Dmitry then played Grieg's Poetic Tone-Pictures Op. 3, Nos. 1,2, 3. Grieg, Norway's most famous musical son, performed as a concert pianist throughout his life so he understood this instrument. I had never heard these pieces before but found them enjoyable. In the summer of 1858, Grieg met the eminent Norwegian violinist Ole Bull, introduced to us recently by the violinist Charlie Siem, at a concert at the Manoel Theatre. Bull was a family friend for Bull's brother was married to Grieg's aunt. He recognized the 15-year-old boy's talent and persuaded his parents to send him to the Leipzig Conservatory.

Dmitry then played Isaac Berkovich's  Variations on a Theme by Paganini. The well-known Variations on a theme by Paganini which we know and love are by Rachmaninoff and I think, Brahms. But I was familiar with the opening of Berkovich's piece. Dmitry played it with the energy and panache of a much older pianist.

Then onto Tchaikowsky's The Seasons: March & April. This Russian composer who had a tortured life, mostly because of his homosexuality, had a massive talent for creating highly melodic, catchy tunes. These pieces are lightweight but attractively varied in character and style. Dmitry gave us a varied interpretation of the three pieces.

Next came Schumann, another composer whose life was a tale of tragedy and early death. He spent most of his life in the shadow of his wife Clara Schumann, one of the most famed pianists of the day and who also wrote very attractive music. He suffered from syphilis and depression, trying to commit suicide by throwing himself into the River Rhine. He was placed in an asylum, where he died two years later. Dmitry played Arabesque Op. 18 and brought out Schumann's impulsive temperament and sensibilities. The young pianist also had the courtesy of playing a piece by a Maltese composer Charles Camilleri, Circus Waltz. Doris Camilleri was present and I was very sorry not to have had a chance to talk to her.

I believe Dmitry is of Armenian descent. Russian Armenians are in fact one of Russia's largest ethnic minorities and the largest Armenian disapora community outside of Armenia. So it was natural for Dmitry to play a piece by an Armenian composer: Elegy by Arno Babajanyan, an Armenian composer and pianist. It is a most pleasant piece. Young Dmitry then gave us Chopin's glorious Fantasy Impromptu Op. 66 in C sharp Minor which we all love.  Here is yet another composer who died young, claimed by tuberculosis at the age of 39, shortly after his relationship with George Sand broke up. Truly, Chopin's life was a short poem but the pleasure his music continues to give us has immortalized him.

Dmitry is now studying in Germany. Some children his age, one of them his neighbour, went up to present him with small beautiful bouquets of flowers. It was a fine gesture. One of the girls who lives next door to him told me 'We have a concert every day when he is in Malta as we can hear him practice.' Dmitry was indeed, in the front row when God was giving out his gifts. But apart from the gift he was given there is also the discipline required to achieve so much at such a young age. Thank you Dmitry, I wish you a great career and an interesting life.

Exhibition of Contemporary Paintings of Malta

The indefaticable duo, Peter and Alaine Apap Bologna have organized an exhibition of Paintings of Malta at St Patrick's Sliema. All proceeds will go to St Patrick's Salesian School. St Patrick's provides a supportive learning environment to allow students to prosper academically and socially. We all know of the wonderful work which the Salesians do. Artists exhibiting include Austin Camilleri, Kenneth Zammit Tabona Peter Quinn and Ruth E. Bacmeister.The exhibition ends on 5th June. Don't miss it. There are some wonderful paintings on display and it is all for an incredibly worthy cause.


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