CONCERT REVIEW: An unfinished symphony on night when a piano starlet shone

Ukrainian pianist Syuzanna Kaszo who performed Grieg's Piano Concerto in A Minor at St Botolph's Church, Boston.
Ukrainian pianist Syuzanna Kaszo who performed Grieg's Piano Concerto in A Minor at St Botolph's Church, Boston.
  • Meeting a ‘most gifted and expressive young artist in Boston
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A medical emergency prevented a privileged audience inside St Botolph’s Church, Boston, from enjoying the town’s Sinfonia orchestra playing Jean Sibelius’s towering Symphony No 1.

But the new season of Boston Sinfonia concerts did unveil an international star of the piano as Ukrainian-born musician Syuzanna Kaszo weaved an intoxicating spell with her interpretation of Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor.

Fresh after flying in from the USA where she is studying for an Artist Diploma at Texas Christian University’s School of Music, Syuzanna brought a depth of harmony and sensitivity to the Norwegian composer’s music, helped by a self-disciplined accompaniment from Boston Sinfonia members.

Syuzanna said: “I really liked the acoustics of the place and it was so majestic.

“I like playing in churches because I feel a deeper spiritual connection and music is my religion.

“I also really liked what I saw of Boston which is a beautiful town, very peaceful and having a great history.”

Ukrainian-Hungarian classical pianist Syuzanna Kaszo performed Piano Concerto in A minor by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg with the Boston Sinfonia at the town's St Botolph's Church.

Ukrainian-Hungarian classical pianist Syuzanna Kaszo performed Piano Concerto in A minor by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg with the Boston Sinfonia at the town's St Botolph's Church.

The concert opened with Giuseppe Verdi’s overture to “The Force of Destiny”, described in the programme notes as “the grandest and most powerful start to any of his (Verdi’s) operatic works” and “the magnificent exception that proves the rule”.

Conductor Nigel Morley, now in his 15th cycle of Boston Sinfonia concert seasons, brought authority and empathy to leading the orchestra and Syuzanna before the concert was abruptly curtailed due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control.

But only after Syuzunna, born in the Transcarpathia region of Ukraine and described by classical music critics as “finger-perfect, youthful flair and a most gifted and expressive young artist, with an engaging poetic temperament”.

“One of the orchestra players’ wives is a compatriot of mine who comes from the same town in Ukraine,” Syuzanna said.

What really matters to me is if I can speak to the hearts of the people I play to and if I can achieve that, it’s the greatest victory and the greatest gift for me

Ukrainian pianist Syuzanna Kaszo

“She offered my CD to the conductor (Nigel Morley), he listened to it and I invited me over to play with the Boston Sinfonia.

“I learned Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor specifically for this concert and it was during that time when I learned that Grieg wrote a lot of dance music.

“That helped me look at the piece as a story and I tried to picture whatever Grieg was trying to tell his audience.

“There are a lot of lighter moments in the piece that describe nature and the country of Norway he was from.”

Boston Sinfonia conducted by Nigel Morley.

Boston Sinfonia conducted by Nigel Morley.

Syuzanna started her musical journey at the age of five, having been brought up in a Ukrainian-Hungarian home where her mother was pianist and her father was also a musician.

But she said: “I don’t think my origin or the family I was brought up in had anything to do with my passion and love for music, although it might seem a natural thing to do to follow in your parents’ footsteps.

“Music was always a place of refuge and solace for me, it’s my closest friend and partner in life - for a lifetime.

“It represents a place of origin and destination, both at the same time, a place that represents both my home, my religion and my faith.

“Music is a kingdom that lies beyond the mundane world and this is the place where I feel my happiest and most content whenever I receive the privilege to reach and enter it.

“However, it’s not always possible to go there which is why my life in music so far has been extremely difficult - in fact, more than difficult.

Syuzanna Kaszo: "I like playing in churches because I feel a deeper spiritual connection and music is my religion."

Syuzanna Kaszo: "I like playing in churches because I feel a deeper spiritual connection and music is my religion."

“There were a lot of times when I thought ‘I can’t do this any more’, but it’s that inner love and passion I first found in myself when I was seven years old that keeps me going.”

Syuzanna initially studied at the National Music Academy of Ukraine before joining the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, where she studied under Graham Scott.

Described by the classical music magazine Gramaphone as “an exceptional talent”, Graham shared with Syuzanna the experience obtained from performing with leading orchestras, notably the London Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Royal Scottish National and New York Chamber Symphony.

Syuzanna said: “Studying at the Royal Northern College of Music was a wonderful experience for me and one of the greatest opportunities I have received in my life because it presented me with the chance to play Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto.

“It also opened the door to appearing at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, one of my most favorite performance halls in the UK and one which I always return to with excitement and enthusiasm.

“I’ve had a difficult, but very enjoyable journey in my life musically.

“But what really matters to me is if I can speak to the hearts of the people I play to and if I can achieve that, it’s the greatest victory and the greatest gift for me.”

Among the celebrated musicians Syuzanna has encountered are Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich, widely acclaimed as one of the greatest pianists of the second half of the 20th century, and American Malcolm Billson who has become known as the “Father of the Fortepiano” (an early version of the piano thought to have been used by composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Liszt.

Syuzanna said: “Most people from our part of the world are very, very hard-working and really give their all to what they chooses as their path in life.

“I’m very fiery and very determined in keeping to what I want to do which is why it’s not so much abouth the venues I play in, but the experience of playing music itself.

“At most of my concerts, I want the audience to be as one with the music as I am.

“One example of this was when I played at the Sala Sao Paolo, Brazil in 2006, a magnificent memory and probably one of the most inspiring and memorable moments of my life.

“I remember that I played Mozart Sonata K 310, Debussy’s Images Book 1 and some Liszt as well.

“In the summer, I went to the Schlern International Music Festival, another magnificent experience and one of the best summer courses I have ever attended in my life because it provided every participant with plenty of performing opportunities, communication with like-minded peers and mentors. “These are our beacons in the music world and one of the greatest features of the event was when some magnificent guest artists performed in concerts which provided us with a lot of insight too.

“In the autumn, I have several performances coming up in the north of England, including Newcastle and Durham, which will be followed by more in the state of Texas during November and December.”

Interview and review by Winston Brown