Rarely in life does one attend a concert which leaves the listener feeling thrilled to the very core.
The last time it happened for me was in November of 2008, when Russian pianist Alexander Ghindin performed in the auditorium of Jamestown High School as part of the concert series of the Jamestown Concert Association.
Ghindin is coming back to town on Friday. I strongly suspect he'll be just as thrilling this time. This time, he'll perform in St. Luke's Episcopal Church at the intersection of Main and Fourth Streets in downtown Jamestown.
Internationally-celebrated artist Alexander Ghindin will perform in Jamestown on Friday, for the Jamestown Concert Association.
I've been asked about this concert by people in Buffalo who planned to attend, so I know it will be a full house. St. Luke's is a beautiful site for a concert but is fairly small for the audience which should be attending this performance.
If you have a season ticket to JCA or to the Warren Concert Association, you already have a ticket to his performance. If not, you can try to buy an individual ticket at one of three sites: the box office of the Reg Lenna Civic Center, Chautauqua Music, or Germaine & Pappalardo. Phone 484-7070 or 487-1522.
Incredibly, the cost is only $20 for the general public and $15 for senior citizens. Trust me, that is a bargain.
The program for the evening includes seven short works by Chopin, followed by five pieces by Scriabin and five by Rachmaninoff.
I'll tell you the pianist's background later in the column and share with you an interview I did with him by telephone some days ago, but just to set the tone, let me quote our local music critic on the subject of his 2008 performance:
''The pianist proved himself the master of the rich, singing quality of Chopin's music, accented by light, silvery lightning which he caused to flash around his passionate musical statements. Just when one might believe there were no bones in the fingers which could produce such a pale and sparkling sound, there would come chords with the power of a hammer blow.''
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Alexander Ghindin was born in 1977, in Moscow. At the age of 13 he became a winner in the Moscow Young Pianists Competition.
Readers are probably familiar with the International Tchaikovsky Competition. That is the competition which was won in the 1950s by Texan Van Cliburn which made him an American hero and the best-known concert pianist in our country.
Ghindin won the Tchaikovsky Competition at the age of 17, making him the youngest winner ever. Among his other triumphs are second prize in the Queen Elisabeth of Belgium competition in 1999 and first place in the Cleveland International Piano Competition in 2007.
His winnings from the Cleveland competition alone included a $50,000 cash award, a contract for a recording on the Naxos label, two years of career management service and a solo recital in Zankel Hall, which is located in Carnegie Hall, New York City.
He performs as a soloist with major orchestras around the world, including the symphonies of Munich, Rotterdam, Seville, Monte Carlo, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Osaka, New York and Philadelphia, just to cherry-pick a few orchestras from a very long list.
He has made 15 commercial recordings, including all four Rachmaninoff piano concertos, and has performed on television and radio in a very long list of countries.
In 2007, he was proclaimed an ''Honored Artist of Russia'' by the Russian government. That same year, he was named Artistic Director of the beautiful and acoustically-acclaimed Svetlanov Hall in the Moscow International Performing Arts Center, at which post he still continues.
I spoke by telephone with Ghindin back in very early February. At the time, he was performing a series of concerts in Knoxville, Tenn., but he was about to return to Moscow and wanted to complete the interview before he left. He is fluent and seemed comfortable in English, using words more precise and sophisticated than many native speakers employ. He likes to be called Sasha.
I have a pretty good idea of the paycheck which comes from performing as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic and other international orchestras. Why has the pianist agreed to return to a tiny venue such as Jamestown, where I know the fees are a tiny fraction of the others?
''I have very good memories of Jamestown,'' he told me. ''The people who arranged to present my concert couldn't have been kinder or more helpful, and the audience was warm and wonderful. I remember that there was an excellent instrument there as well.
''I've been lucky to perform in every kind of performance space and in every kind of community. I've found that larger cities have an audience which is used to hearing skilled artists. It's just another concert for them. Smaller towns often have warmer, more enthusiastic audiences. Attending the concert is more important and special to them,'' he added. ''Still, I just imagine myself performing for people wherever they are.''
Having performed in venues around the world, is there a national quality to audiences? Is an audience in Japan different to perform for, than one in Russia?
''There is a difference by nationality, but I can't put it into words. It's really an issue of nuance, rather than difference. People in certain countries have heard more of a particular kind of thing. The popular music they've grown up with makes them more sensitive to different sounds. But, I find if I'm honest in performance that people are people, and they will respond,'' he said.
Ghindin first played a piano at the age of 8, which he reports is late for a musician to begin and to still have an international career.
''Things were different then,'' he says without a hint of irony, considering he's talking about 1985, not 1763. ''Today it's not uncommon for children to begin serious study at the age of four.''
On his Web site he has reproduced an interview in which he gave a similar answer, but went on to jestingly suggest that those children are performing Rachmaninoff concertos by the age of five. That inspired readers who seem to have misplaced any sense of humor, to write in and complain that the hands of children that young aren't possibly large enough for Rachmaninoff's music. I think it's safe to say he was kidding.
Turning more serious, he said he finds it astonishing the degree of technical mastery which he hears in performances by children as young as nine or 10.
''But, I think there is a price to pay, in terms of artistry, to develop that technique in young children, before they have experienced the emotional and intellectual experiences which make the difference between sound and music,'' he said.
I asked about his role as Artistic Director of Svetlanov Hall, a 2,200-seat performing space in Moscow, which is the largest concert hall in the city.
''I create a season of four performances per year, each of which presents a variety of artists who perform both alone and together,'' he answered.
Sometimes he programs performances by himself in the series.
''Moscow audiences are very interested in American music, because for a very long time, they didn't have much opportunity to hear it. The most recent concert I arranged included a two-piano performance, of which I was one, entirely of music by American composers, including John Cage, William Bolcom, and Aaron Copland. The audience just loved it.''
Has being a concert presenter interfered with his career as a performing artist?
''Not at all,'' he replied. ''Every performer should be an administrator, too. We need to shape and develop our own careers and it is very helpful to be aware of our presenters' problems.''
I couldn't resist asking about the actual concert experience. When Ghindin sits down at the piano in front of a crowd which often numbers in the thousands, what goes through his mind? Does he picture the sheet music? Does he recite to himself a list of musical qualities which he has memorized for the music he's performing, or imagine himself in a calmer place, or concentrate on the responses of the audience to what he's doing?
He answered that every performance is like a live person. No two are exactly the same.
''I never have the same thoughts twice. Every concert is a product of the performer's feelings at the time, mixed with the reactions he's getting from the audience. I never know when I begin to play a piece of music, where I'll be at the end.''
Wherever he is at the end of his Jamestown performance, I suspect I know where I'll be. It's a tenet of the official organization of music critics that members will not ever begin a standing ovation, and will participate in them, on only very rare occasions.
The last time he was in Jamestown, I found myself up on my feet and cheering with the rest of the large audience. If Friday's performance is any exception, I'll be very surprised.
Not long ago, the Lucille Ball Little Theatre of Jamestown and the city of Jamestown invited a black tie audience to celebrate the long career in the theater of Sam Paladino, and in theatrical service around the community.
Modeled on the Oscar presentations, the program featured delicious foods and a whole table full of awards for Paladino for the many, many performances he has given throughout his career. The man is an artist and a gentleman. Congratulations are very much in order.
Congratulations to Jamestown Community College students Sarah Modica, Baca Potts and Caitlin Ross, whose visual artworks have been selected to be sent to the State Museum in Albany, as part of the SUNY Student Art Exhibition.
Three works by each student were sent. They are being exhibited in the Main Concourse of SUNY Plaza, through May 28. Works selected as ''Best of Show'' from the exhibit will be displayed June 7-24. The exhibit can be viewed on SUNY's web site.
Also, congratulations are in order for Aaron Bueg, a student at the State University of New York at Fredonia. He is a double major in graphic design and illustration and was recently announced as one of the winners of the 2010 Student Scholarship Competition of the Society of Illustrators in New York City.
Examples of his work will be displayed in Manhattan at the Museum of American Illustration, May 5-29.
The arts in Western New York are rich with talented people.
The SUNY Fredonia Chamber Singers are currently on their annual spring tour. They will give a post-tour concert on the Fredonia campus, on March 28 at 4 p.m. Hear it in Rosch Recital Hall.
As part of their tour, the singers are performing and presenting workshops for high school choral programs.
One of the highlights of the concert will be a performance of ''Amao Omi'' by Georgian composer Giya Kancheli. The title of the piece means ''Senseless War.'' It is composed to include a saxophone quartet. The Erie Saxophone Quartet, which recently performed in Jamestown in the Unitarian-Universalist concert series, will participate in the performance.
There are no ticket prices in the news release, but a computer visit to the university's box office shows no tickets for sale, suggesting that the performance is free and open to the public. If you wish to check, before attending you can phone 673-3501.
Enjoy a five-course banquet in Buffalo's own medieval castle, the Connecticut Street Armory, on March 20 from 6 to 10:30 p.m. Enjoy live entertainment which will include jugglers, sword fighters and bagpipers, then dance with your favorite partner to the Theresa Quinn Band. Shakespearean dress is welcome but not required.
You can even feel good about treating yourself to the experience because it is a fundraiser for the free performances of Shakespeare Plays which are presented each summer in Buffalo's Delaware Park.
Tickets are $65 for members and $75 for non-members of Shakespeare in Delaware Park. Corporate tables are available.
Reserve them by phone at 856-4533 or by computer at www.shakespereindelawarepark.org.
Summer of 2010, enjoy ''Much Ado About Nothing'' between June 17 and July 11, and an all-female rendering of ''Macbeth,'' from July 22 to Aug. 15.