Mood for a Melody

Pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk performs with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra in the Amphitheater during Week Two. Photo by Ellie Haugsby.

Chautauqua favorite Gavrylyuk to present solo evening performance

Ellie Haugsby | Staff Writer

Many consider a week at the Chautauqua Institution a vacation, a chance for relaxation. For some, this comes in the form of engaging in social dialogue or listening to lectures; for others, it means watching the waves of Chautauqua Lake lap against grass and sand.

For Alexander Gavrylyuk, a visit to Chautauqua assumes no less than performing in front of thousands of spectators hanging on every whim of his keyboard.

Gavrylyuk will offer a solo performance at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater.

He remembers how, while studying choir and piano in his home country of Ukraine, his chorus master suggested he approach his musical studies.

“He told me quite frankly, ‘You are a bit too loud and a bit too much of a soloist for the choir,’” Gavrylyuk said, “‘so why don’t you just go and play your piano?’”

So play his piano he did.

Gavrylyuk has become a staple of the Chautauqua music scene. He first performed here in 2006 — at age 20 — and has returned each summer since, much to the delight of Chautauqua’s visitors and staff alike.

“There has been an overwhelming response from audience members,” said Timothy Muffitt, director of Chautauqua’s Music School Festival Orchestra. “His is a talent that we enjoyed from the very first time and want to get to know even more.”

Since his first public performance at the age of nine, Gavrylyuk has earned a steady stream of acclaim. His awards are numerous: first place in the third International Horowitz Piano Competition, the fourth Hamamatsu International Piano Competition and the 11th Arthur Rubinstein Competition. He has toured worldwide since the age of 14.

Despite his jet-set lifestyle, the piano virtuoso said he enjoys each visit to Chautauqua.

“This is a very unique place,” he said, “because so many different human ways to interact and express themselves come together here. It is a very enriching, spiritually speaking, experience.”

Gavrylyuk has performed at Chautauqua both as a soloist and with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra. He also teaches master classes with students of the MSFO, many of whom are of a similar age to the 26-year-old pianist.

“It is not the traditional teacher-student relationship where the teacher is telling the student and teaching the student the wisdom of music,” he said. “It’s actually more of a mutual discovery throughout the process of working in the master class. I’m using my experience as much as I can, but I also end up learning a lot myself.”

Even when performing in the open air of the Amphitheater, Gavrylyuk said he finds the relationship between himself and the audience to be one of intimacy.

“As a performer, I feel very connected to the overall environment around me,” he said, “and it makes me feel very comfortable because it’s such a cozy atmosphere for me to be in and make music.”

Gavrylyuk has already performed once at Chautauqua during the 2011 Season; on July 7, he joined the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra for a performance of Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major.

At tonight’s concert, audiences will have the opportunity to see the pianist demonstrate his skills in a solo performance.

“There is great demand for him, and what we get in a solo recital,” Muffitt said, “in that there is a broader scope and range of repertoire and in a recital it’s more intimate — the audience is more up close and personal with the performer.”

Those who are present tonight will witness performances of such works as Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, nocturnes by Frédéric Chopin, and works from the Russian masters Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff.

Despite being alone on the stage, Gavrylyuk said he knows he will be able to engage with those around him.

“I feel the people here are very open towards music,” he said, “and this makes it very easy to establish a very special connection during the concerts. When I play, this connection provides an opportunity to share music together with people, and to experience those emotions and the inner-worlds territories together at the same time.”