Kostia grew up as a piano prodigy in post-war St.
Petersburg. As the eldest son of a well-known
Russian film actor, he began to play the piano at
the age of four. When he was seven, Kostia was
enrolled in the special music preparatory school of
the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory, where he studied
with Tamara Karetkina. Four to six hours practice a
day were required at this establishment, and sports
were prohibited due to possible hand injuries.
Kostia later admitted that this was a stipulation he
resented and often broke! By the time he was
eighteen, he advanced to the Conservatory where
Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich were once
students, and he began studies with one of the last
great piano masters of Russian Romanticism- Vladimir
Nielsen. Through his peers, Kostia had the
opportunity to become acquainted with World music.
For the young
boy and man, his homeland was a great source of
stimulation. Founded by Peter the Great in the early
eighteenth century to provide Russia with a major
seaport and gateway to the West, St. Petersburg
became a museum of architecture. Just as Washington
D.C. was later modeled after classical Grecian
architecture, Peter's city was envisioned as the
Venice of the North. Architects and craftsmen from
Italy, Germany and France were commissioned to
construct a city that would serve as a monument to
the new Russian spirit and centre of Czarist Russia.
Streets blossomed with magnificent classical and
baroque cathedrals, museums, libraries and palaces.
Stone embankments outlined an elaborate series of
canals, transversed by myriad graceful bridges.
such historical significance and beauty, the
developing artist was clearly motivated. He feels
that his upbringing in St. Petersburg heavily
influences this work.
a graduate degree in piano performance in 1982,
Kostia set about travelling through Russia and
Eastern Europe as an artist, performing as a soloist
and with Russian ethnic music ensembles. Kostia
played at the World Premiere performance of Alfred
Shnitke's Second Symphony. His work as an
orchestrator, composer and musician, earned him
international acclaim and awards.
however, a cultural exchange programme that the
listener has to thank for the Suite St. Petersburg
CD. Kostia came to the United States in 1989, and he
fell in love with Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His earlier
life in St. Petersburg, however, continued to
inspire him, and this CD is dedicated to the
culturally rich city.
Where to begin
in describing this CD? It is mainly solo-piano. The
CD is very accessible. It has a classical feel to it
in parts. Kostia certainly has an ear for melody.
The whole recording has a feel of sophistication
about it. The tracks are dedicated to different
aspects of the city, from natural wonders such as
"Sunrise", to specific locations such as "Warm
Stones". The opening track, appropriately titled
"First Touch" is very beautiful. In the linear
notes, Kostia describes it as thus: "The crisp
winter air, the sound of snow crunching below my
feet, the softness and warmth of my Grandmother's
hand gently holding mine as we walk to the Kirov
Ballet. First touches, first memories of my city...
the procreator of my life, my music."
continues with "Secret Garden" which is equally
delightful to listen to. Again, this is in many ways
an autobiographical piece, with Kostia referring to
his childhood experiences- "An old woman's
apartment, woodwork, brocade and draperies, scented
with years of use. From a room aside, glowed the
magical light of the garden atrium. I was absorbed
into the fresh green foliage- the radiant blossoms,
and knew that life and light, in all its fragile
beauty, was nurtured here."
"Winter Ride" is a more uptempo piece, and a lot of
fun to listen to as well as play! Kostia describes
his inspiration.... "Cold, misted snow upon my skin,
wind forming itself around my body, sun pulsating
against my face- the rhythm of warmth...."
track is quite jazzy in form at its onset, with a
slow tempo which is maintained throughout. "The
graceful forms of bridges, stones and buildings,
interpreted by the serene stillness of the river....
Another St. Petersburg for our eyes to gaze upon,
capable at any moment to ripple like silk," are
Kostia's descriptive and poetic words to describe
Kostia's most popular and well-recognised
composition makes up the CDs fifth track. "Sunrise"
is exceptionally beautiful from beginning to end.
One can almost experience for oneself the magical
sunrise that slowly reveals the extraordinary beauty
of St. Petersburg. Within this piece, there is a
short rest- a point at which I always envisage the
sun momentarily disappearing behind one of the
magnificent cathedrals of the city.
continues with "Face to Face". Track seven is
another very accessible piece with a catchy melody.
It is a romantic piece, perfect for lovers
everywhere. Kostia describes it as.... "The Red Sail
season- a time for lovers, the city bathed in
sensual light. The lingering caresses of the sun's
midnight glow, illuminate the encounters of love."
has a classical feel to it. It also features Paul
Gmeinder on cello. The combination of the two
instruments has to be heard to be believed. Kostia's
description of, "I gently touch the smooth stones
lining the Neva River, feeling the life of the sun's
energy brought deep into the night.... the warmth
living in them as the city lives in me....
permeating my very being, inhabiting my soul...."
captures, perhaps, the intensity of the piece.
penultimate track, "Building Bridges", has an
intriguing opening section- with flurries of high
pitched notes, countering the regular left-hand
lower notes. It develops into a busy little track-
quiet, but with a quick tempo. "Our hands fused,
reaching over the vastness steely in countenance and
integrity. The woven strength, braiding our souls
with exhilarating joy and light...." are Kostia's
ever-poetical words about the piece. Around two
minutes into this track, there is a complete change
to a more traditional melody, and very catchy it is
Petersburg's closing track is mournful, yet
beautiful at its onset. Solo-piano here, reflecting
the somber nature of having to say, "Farewell". As
the piece develops, it becomes more positive in
tone, perhaps looking forward to new beginnings and
opportunities, as well as recognising the happy
memories of what is being left behind.
Petersburg" was recorded at St. Joseph's Convent
Chapel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Kostia used a
Steinway Model D nine foot concert grand piano. The
album was recorded in late 1993.
I am immensely
impressed with this CD. It is beautiful from start
to finish, and I give it my highest