Romantic Return

Rachmaninov. Tchaikovsky. Stravinksy. When it comes to joining the ranks of Russia's greatest Romantic composers/pianists, Natasha Paremski may not yet have made the cut, but her mastery of intricate and difficult piano compositions along with the skills of her effortlessly glissando-ing fingers is quickly elevating this young Moscow-born virtuoso to such esteemed ranks.

At the age of four, Paremski was drawn to the magnetism of an outdated upright. At eight, she and her family emigrated to the East Bay, and by 13 she was debuting with the Santa Cruz County Symphony through its Youth and Family program.

A decade later, Paremski again makes her way back to Santa Cruz this week, as she kicks off the 51st season of the symphony that helped initiate her career.

And since that early debut, Paremski has enjoyed a travel-filled career showcasing the captivating grace few concert pianist exhibit. International tours, a string of honors and awards, and even a feature in a BBC film recounting the life and work of Tchaikovsky, are all part of her resume.

"I love the fact that you get to go to different cities and meet different people and personalities,"the 23-year-old imparts. "I love to think of an artist's life and how that influences our musicianship and the way you think about music and sounds. You soak it all up and interpret it into your music."

Paremski's worldly artistic sense translates to performances teeming with a profound zeal and intense charisma, which surface through thunderous chord slashing and staccato touches. Not surprisingly, Paremski exhibits signs of a well-seasoned musician who's perfected her craft.

"As a young musician, you're forced to be a grown-up in a really good way. You learn from the musicians because they relate their personal experience to what you're going through as a young artist. It's really interesting to talk to people who are older than me because I've been around them for so long that I feel comfortable."

With practices lasting up to 10 hours a day and an ability to capture the essence of Russian music and folklore (which she cites as "extroverted and tasteful"), Paremski's dedication and passion will be evident in her rendition of Rachmaninov's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini." The opening concert will also include a presentation of Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite" and Bernstein's "Symphonic Dances" from "West Side Story."

"We try to cover pieces from all the different symphonic eras," says Santa Cruz Music Director and maestro extraordinaire, John Larry Granger, of the upcoming season. "For me, it's like putting a big meal together for the whole season: a little Beethoven, a little Brahms. Then add some Bernstein and some American contemporary works - as well as those that were written decades ago- that is still greatly profound."

The kickoff concert will also include "Golden Notes of Thanks," a moving wall exhibit by Santa Cruz artist Christopher Rebele in celebration of those who have made significant contributions to the Endowment Fund. Highlighting works that represent new ideas and beginnings of the symphonic era, this season's theme, "New Beginnings," celebrates the innovation of composers who have helped foster the symphonic experience. The series of six concerts includes Santa Cruz native Chetan Tierra, the Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus, and a family concert entitled "Colors of Music" that will conclude the season in May.

Originally appeared September 28, 2009 in Good Times Santa Cruz.