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Saturday: Russian Natalia Lepeshkina adds spice to old piano favourites at Heliconian Club

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This Saturday evening, tucked away in Yorkville’s Heliconian Hall, Russian gem Nataliya Lepeshkina is giving a recital of piano pieces by Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, and Russian masters Tchaikovsky, Scriabin, Prokofiev and Rimsky-Korsakov.

Lepeshkina was presented last November in a matinée concert at Montgomery’s Inn as part of the Neapolitan Connection Concert Series (which is presenting cello-piano duo Rachel Mercer and Angela Park in July). It is not the greatest venue for a pianist, so the Steinway grand piano at Heliconian Hall will give Lepeshkina a chance to be heard at her best.

Before moving to Canada in 2010, she had spent the previous 40 years working as a professor of music at the Moscow Ippolitov-Ivanov Municipal Institute. Her family has deep roots in the Russian capital as well as in working in education and the arts. One of her grandfathers was mayor of Moscow in the mid-19th century.

This recital reflects Lepeshkina’s passion for the arts, her charitable spirit, and her love of the piano. She is donating all the ticket sales to the Toronto Heliconian Club, which she recently joined as a music member and how I came to know her. Language barriers have not stopped her from making new musical friends, who can communicate through the piano.

Her favourite composer on the programme is Frédéric Chopin, an artist whose tenderness is close to the pianist’s own sensitive nature. She strives to convey the complexity and depth of feeling by drawing out fine and subtle colours.

She says she gets these through a combination of touch and pedal techniques handed down by two of her teachers, Boris Berlin (not the Canadian by the same name) and Boris Zemliansky.

After speaking with her about this upcoming concert with some help from her husband Alex, I stayed for her rehearsal in hear for myself what she tried to describe.

She warmed up with Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata, which I have played myself and have heard many times live as well as on recordings. The best interpretations have usually offered a refreshing take on the melodic material, and recognized that the challenge of this piece is not in how fast you can carry both hands from one end of the keyboard to another in the final movement.

Lepeshkina’s sound was rife with her Russian influences.

Chopin is represented by a selection of shorter pieces, and she will play Franz Schubert’s Op. 20 No. 2 Impromptu. The Russian repertoire includes two Études by Alexander Scriabin, Sergei Prokofiev’s March from The Love of Three Oranges, some pieces by Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov’s iconic Flight of the Bumblebee.

Peggy Mahon will act as the evening’s host.

If you’ve ever wondered how the canonic piano pieces of the romantic era might sound at the hands of a seasoned Russian pianist, you don’t want to miss this concert. For the rest of us who just enjoy a good recital, you’re sure to hear something new and different in these well-loved classics.

For more information, click here.

Margaret Lam
For more on Margaret Lam, visit

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