Tutunov returns for UAS Piano Campaign

Posted: Thursday, September 16, 2004

From his office at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Ore., Belorussian pianist and keyboard studies professor Alexander Tutunov has planned, painstakingly, for his third trip to Juneau. The fine logistics, of course, include what to wear for his classical concert, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 17, at the Egan Library on the University of Alaska Southeast campus.

"You always try to plan things: What are you going to play; what are you going to wear; what are you going to say," Tutunov said. "There were two choices. I could wear some flashy red silk shirt or whatever to look cool, or I could go with a full traditional tails and suit to show respect to the audience and the importance of the purpose. I'm kind of leaning toward the more traditional outfit."

Expect an evening of traditional pieces, "short and beautiful works," as he describes them, during Tutunov's return trip to town.

The College of Fellows is sponsoring his performance as part of the UAS Piano Campaign. The school hopes to raise $45,000 to purchase a piano for the new Egan lecture hall, to repair the existing UAS pianos and to host master piano classes for the community in 2005.

Tickets to the show are $25 for adults, $15 for UAS students and $15 for anyone 18 and younger. They are available at Hearthside Books, the UAS bookstore and at the door.

At 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8, the Piano Campaign will host another concert. Joyce Parry Moore and Jason Alexander will sing Cole Porter songs to the accompaniment of jazz pianist Barney McClure. Those tickets cost the same as the Tutunov concert.

Tutunov played at the Juneau-Douglas High School Auditorium last September, and was here last April as part of the Juneau Symphony's 40th anniversary concert.

"I love the people in Juneau and I feel a really good connection and interest in the classical piano and classical music in general," he said. "I like to support that. And also the project itself is very dear to my heart - trying to raise money to buy a piano that will enhance the educational awareness and community support. They will feel it is their own piano because they bought it with their own money. There's no federal support for this kind of thing anymore."

While he's in town, Tutunov will teach a master class at the Egan Library from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 18. It's $20 to play, $10 to watch. Call 586-34895 to enroll. Tutunov led a master class in Juneau last year.

He will also give a private lesson to Juneau-Douglas senior Abe Levy, the featured artist in one of the Juneau Symphony Orchestra productions this coming year.

"The training I received is a legacy I feel like I should pass on to younger students," Tutunov said. "It's usually helpful to try to be entertaining for the participants and the people who are there to observe. The students I taught last time were wonderful. I had a great time and hopefully they did too."

Tutunov entered the Central Music School at the Moscow Conservatory when he was 7. He graduated with honors and was promptly drafted into the Soviet Army.

He plays about 35 concerts a year. This season he's visiting China twice, Mexico, Switzerland, Sweden, France and Russia, as well as different towns in the United States.

One of his "pet projects" is promoting the works of Lev Abeliovich, a little-known Russian composer who died in 1985. Tutunov is recording his solo piano works for Altarus Records.

Abeliovich was Jewish and found himself in occupied Warsaw during World War II. He escaped from a ghetto and crossed the front lines to Russia. They thought he was a spy and threw him into a Russian concentration camp. He was stuck there until the great Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich and a few other composers were able to vouch for him and win his release.

His work has been featured in a History Channel special, "Russia: Land of the Czars."

"He didn't get much recognition or exposure, but the music is great," Tutunov said. "It's all about the ugliness of war, which profoundly affected him. It's a little bit dark."

Tutunov will probably not play any Abeliovich in Juneau.

"For our purposes we need to stick with more traditional and recognizable tunes," he said. "I'm hoping to see a lot of younger people in the audience this time, so we want something on the lighter side."

The first half of Friday's show will feature Western European composers - Bach, Brahms and Chopin. The second half will highlight Russian composers such as Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev. Both halves will include a selection from Franz Liszt.

"It's short and beautiful works, recognizable for the most part, with a good healthy balance and an intermission, so people don't get overwhelmed," Tutunov said. "It's all the things that I love, and hopefully the audience will love it too."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.

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