In the Mar-a-Lago Club, it seems nothing could outshine the gilded walls and crystal chandeliers in the ornate Donald J. Trump Grand Ballroom.
And then Lola Astanova enters.
The 28-year-old Russian-American pianist, known for not only her musical talent but also her glamorous fashion, performed with the Palm Beach Symphony in the private Manalapan club March 17 and 18.
|Ramon Tebar, Lola Astanova|
Dressed in a form-fitting silver gown, her long hair pulled back in a sleek ponytail, Astanova shone in more ways than one as the soloist for Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 on March 18.
An expressive pianist, she harnesses a special power to use the instrument’s voice as an emotional driver. Through skillfully executed dynamic changes, she was able to evoke within listeners feelings of endearment, sentimentality, gloom, dominance and even nostalgia. Astanova expertly trilled the keys softly and beautifully in the second, larghetto movement, producing ending notes that seemed to float away like butterflies.
Astanova’s own emotions are worn on her sleeve: She shoots her hand in the air like a rock star at the end of a powerful melody or song and moves her body as though at the mercy of the piano. She was clearly having fun during the concerto’s third and final movement, the allegro vivace, as her fingers flew atop the ivories to play eighth-note triplets in a speedy three-quarter time—while the audience wondered in amazement: How does she do that?
In short, she knows how to put on a show.
Animated conductor Ramon Tebar is also just as entertaining to watch. He led the symphony in an exemplary supporting performance to Astanova’s solo; altogether, the group was a perfect blend.
Minus Astanova, the symphony kicked off the evening’s program with Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3, Opus 72. The overture comes from “Leonore,” the only opera the composer ever produced, and the piece moves as though telling a story, with tempo and dynamic changes. Twice, Tebar turned to face the audience and pointed cues for a solo fanfare from a trumpeter positioned at the back of the room—unexpected surround sound.
The symphony ended the evening with Brahms’ four-movement Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Opus 68. The performance was exquisite, and the setting only heightened the experience: The musicians were assembled in a narrow end of the ballroom in front of glowing pinkish-red wall lights, their movements reflected in the ballroom’s crackled wall mirror as the sun faded.
Yet the draw of the evening remained Astanova, whose appearance was clearly part of the symphony’s attempts to attract a younger audience through youthful guest artists. Other performers who have participated in this year’s fortieth season include 29-year-old violinist Itamar Zorman in January and 38-year-old Zoe Zeniodi in November as an assistant conductor for a children’s concert.
The symphony’s next and final concert of the season will take place April 6 at the Kravis Center. Titled "Romantic at the Kravis," the program features Berlioz’s Le carnival romain: Overture, Sibelius’ Finalandia, Opus 26, Grieg’s Peer Gyn: Suite No. 1, Opus 46 and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, Opus 64. Tickets start at $50. (561-832-7469)