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A Celebrated Russian Maestro Brings a Muscular Joy to the Alexandria Symphony

Kirsten Obadal
By Kirsten Obadal
Posted on Feb 03,2010
Filed Under Entertainment , Local Style,

Courtesy Photo<br /> <br />“I cannot believe what a different situation I have than when I first arrived 20 years ago,
Courtesy Photo
“I cannot believe what a different situation I have than when I first
arrived 20 years ago," Gorenman recalls. "I had no money, no
prospects, and did not speak English. It was bleak at first.
But now I live in the nation’s capital and I am doing what I love.”

ALEXANDRIA, VA. -  “She is indeed a winner with fluid, effortless technique, rhythmic acuity and alertness and genuine musical insights and feeling.”  
So says the San Francisco Chronicle about Alexandria Symphony Orchestra’s visiting artist, DC-based Yuliya Gorenman.  
With a lineup that will make your heart beat faster, ASO’s Valentine’s Day weekend program will focus solely on one of the most gifted musicians ever, Ludwig van Beethoven.
The celebrated Russian pianist, who is on faculty at American University, has almost completed her personal project, performing and recording the complete cycle of the 32 Beethoven piano sonatas in a series of eight solo recitals at American.
Gorenman, a native of the U.S.S.R., was born in Odessa, Ukraine, and grew up in Kazakhstan.  
January 26th is the anniversary of her arrival in America, Gorenman told Local Kicks.  “I cannot believe what a different situation I have than when I first arrived 20 years ago," she recalls.  "I had no money, no prospects, and did not speak English.  It was bleak at first.  But now I live in the nation’s capital and I am doing what I love.”  
As a young woman, Gorenman began to shape her performance style while attending the St. Petersburg Conservatory.
While still a student, she performed throughout the former Soviet Union. After immigrating to the United States in 1989, she studied first at the San Francisco Conservatory and then at the Peabody Conservatory with mentors Nathan Schwartz and Leon Fleischer.
She now travels the world performing, and here at home, is the mother to two children adopted from Guatemala, and performs regularly at the Phillips Collection, the Smithsonian and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
She achieved international acclaim in 1995 as a prizewinner of the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium.
In Nov. 2009, Washington Life magazine listed Gorenman as one of Washington’s 10 best performers, and reviewers have said she plays with a “muscular joy” that continues to win her devoted fans.  
Gorenman has earned a steady procession of awards and honors. Numerous television and radio broadcasts were carried throughout Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Canada, and the United States.
As a fellow at the Tanglewood Festival she appeared in a PBS educational video for Sony Classical with Seiji Ozawa and Wynton Marsalis.
Also at Tanglewood Gorenman gave a joint concert with Billy Joel, performing his classical concert works, which she arranged. The concert was broadcast nationally on NPR.
Gorenman told Local Kicks: “I emigrated 20 years ago with my family; there was no future for me there.  The Berlin wall fell after I left, so I can’t claim credit for that.  It was a surreal experience for me, totally unexpected, when the Soviet Union fell apart.”  
Gorenman, who recently turned 41, explains her history as a musician:  “I began to play at seven years old.  My mother gave me some lessons and the rest I learned at school, six lessons a week—two from my mother and four from other teachers, including ear training and music literature.  It was a special school for the gifted."
She continues, “During a concert, the sonatas are performed by heart.  I was blessed with a great memory, but I also work very hard to train my memory.  To memorize it takes no time at all, I play it a couple of times and after that I can pretty much play it back.  I sight read it quickly in tempo first, and let it  come together conceptually.  Then I figure out the patterns.  A sonata can take 15 to 30 minutes to perform.  My score is crisscrossed with pencil marks, and that’s when I know the piece has been thoroughly studied.  But you really learn a piece the first time you perform it in public.”  
Gorenman’s favorite composers include Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Schuman, Chopin and Brahms.  
And of course, the Russian composers Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky.  
"I stay away from Bartok, Hindemith, Schoenberg—they just don’t speak to me.”  
As the parent of two three year olds, Gorenman says that she has to practice in short and focused bursts.  
“They love music,” exudes Gorenman, “and it doesn’t even disturb their sleep.  They love Beethoven...  They dance to it and applaud when I am done.”  
As if there were time for anything else in her schedule, Gorenman adds, “My other passion is deep sea fishing.”
Gorenman muses on what it means to be a musician. “Music is everything.  So few things make sense these days, information is obsolete mere hours after it is put out, I am playing timeless treasures that are 220 years old and still relevant.  Music defines me—I am a musician first and everything else second.”  
Her concert on Saturday, Feb. 13 and Sunday, Feb. 14 features Alexandria Symphony Orchestra and its celebrated Maestro Kim Allen Kluge performing Beethoven’s  Prometheus Overture, Symphony No. 6 “Pastorale” Piano Concerto No. 4.
If You're Going...
The Feb. 13 concert takes place at 8:00 p.m., while the Feb. 14 concert takes place at 3 p.m. at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall & Arts Center; NOVA Community College, Alexandria Campus; 3001 N. Beauregard St., Alexandria, VA  22311. Youth tickets always $5. Student and adults $20-$80. Call 703-548-0885 or visit for tickets. Find more information about Yuliya Gorenman at

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