Hailed by The New York Times as a pianist of "a fiery sensibility and warm touch" , Anna Shelest is an international award-winning pianist who has thrilled the audiences throughout the world. Her recent engagements included debuts at Alice Tully Hall in New York City, Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall in New York City, The Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and the Wiener Konzerthaus in Austria.
Born in Kharkiv, Ukraine Ms. Shelest began her piano studies at the age of six. She attended the Kharkiv Special Music School for Gifted Children, where she was a student of Gary Gelfgat and later of Sergei Polusmiak. At the age of eleven she performed at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris as the youngest prize winner of the Milosz Magin International Piano Competition.
An "effective collaborator" (The New York Times), Shelest made her orchestral debut at the age of twelve with the Kharkiv Symphony Orchestra, playing Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 1. Since then she has been a soloist with some of the world's most renown orchestras such as Montreal Symphony Orchestra, St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, under Maestro Paavo Jarvi, and Netherlands Symphony Orchestra. Other appearances include Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra, Lugansk Philharmonic, Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra, Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Russian Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Sinfonia and the Jefferson Symphony Orchestra.
Ms. Shelest has performed on some of the world's greatest stages such as Carnegie Hall in New York City, The Kennedy Center in Washington DC, Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory and Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City.
As an international recitalist, she has performed in Canada, France, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia, Ukraine, South Africa and the United States. Her chamber music collaborations include performances with the Amernet String Quartet, Cincinnati ARC Ensemble, and musicians from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. In June 2011 she was the first one to present a recital at the newly rebuilt 7 World Trade Center in New York City.
Shelest's repertoire ranges from the Baroque to today's contemporary composers. Her discography includes Rachmaninoff Etudes-Tableaux op. 39 and Moments Musicaux op. 16; "Beyond Oblivion" featuring music for trombone and piano with Cristian Ganicenco, principal trombonist of Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra; Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition as well as works by Tchaikovsky and Glinka; and the new release "Spirit and Romance" featuring music of German Romantic composers.
With her sincere and compelling interpretations Anna Shelest has won top prizes and awards in numerous international piano competitions including: Louisiana International Piano Competition; Kawai American Recording Contest; Bradshaw-Buono International Piano Competition, New York; Jefferson Symphony Young Artists Competition, Denver, Colorado; International Piano Competition for Young Musicians, Enschede, The Netherlands; Corpus Christi International Competition for Piano and Strings; Washington International Piano Competition; and others.
Having received her Masters Degree at The Juilliard School in the class of Jerome Lowenthal, Ms. Shelest currently resides in New York City. Her previous teachers included Sergei Polusmiak at Northern Kentucky University where she was a recipient of numerous scholarships and awards including a Corbett Scholarship, the Regents Award, and recognition as an Outstanding Senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as private studies with Eugene and Elizabeth Pridonoff of University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music.
Anna Shelest - 12 Years Old - Rachmaninoff Concerto No.1
Anna Shelest's first release featuring virtuosic repertoire by women composers from the last three centuries. The program sheds light on the under-explored territory of piano repertoire and makes the case that the music of female composers, many of whom were virtuoso pianists, is as relevant today as the music of their male counterparts. Works by Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn, Cecile Chaminade, Amy Beach, Lili Boulanger, and Chiayu Hsu.
New Classical Tracks is a Syndicated Feature airing Nationally on Classical 24 & Statewide on Minnesota Public Radio. Listen to Julie Amacher's Feature with Anna Shelest.
READ THE TRANSCRIPT - Anna Shelest was born in Ukraine. She moved to the United States when she was just 15 to study at the Juilliard School of music. She and her husband, Dmitri, are U.S. citizens now, and they live in New York City with their two little boys. When she's not performing as a soloist, Anna and Dmitri are seated at the piano performing works for four hands. Later this year, they'll release a recording featuring Ukrainian music. In the meantime, Anna is celebrating the release of her newest solo CD featuring the first two piano concertos by one of her favorite composers, Sergei Prokofiev.
Anna has an affinity for Russian composers. And here's why: "I think it's the music of my childhood, and the older I get we understand that those relationships you forge when you're a child with people and culture and language and music is staying with you and is really deepening as I grow older," she says. "So Prokofiev especially is a composer I remember from my childhood as the first composer I loved listening to. So there's a little bit of that sentiment of feeling like a kid again when I play his music. And just being educated in what is often referred to as the Russian piano school, of course Russian music was a very big part of it, so I always had some kind of Russian composers in my fingers."
Which piece by Prokofiev first fascinated you as a child? "The first piece was 'Cinderella'," Anna says. "I had the LP record of the ballet with narration and I played this recording often before going to bed. I remember even now how I felt listening to that music. And since that time, Prokofiev's music, especially his orchestral music, I think it's so magical because of the imagination that is so colorful … the child's imagination."
So, what sparks your imagination about his first piano concerto? "It's the most fun concerto in the whole of the repertoire," Anna says. "It's like a party for orchestra and pianist. It's really not a serious piece. It's all jokes and fun times.
"If I think about my son who is 4 years old and the way he thinks and talks - he's always happy and making jokes," Anna continues. "And it's this youthful energy and very imaginative way you see the world. [Prokofiev] was 19 years old when he wrote this piece. It's really remarkable to think that he was a complete artist, a complete visionary when he made this piece."
Prokofiev's Concerto No. 2 is very different; can you talk about how it contrasts from the first concerto? "The original score was lost during the Revolution and then he revised the work in Paris in 1923, I believe," Anna explains. "But I think in the music it can be viewed through an historic context as a commentary of the time - a very dark, tragic time for humanity. So I think with this concerto … when I first learned it 14 years ago, I viewed it as a very virtuosic piece and this is something that it's famous for - it's very acrobatic piano playing. But the longer I played it the more I'm aware of how deep this music goes and it really tackles very kind of tragic human emotions."
The first movement of the second concerto builds to an incredibly extensive cadenza that takes a lot of endurance. Anna says it accomplishes a very important dramatic goal, "As a pianist, you have to be constantly climbing up - higher and higher and by the time you get to the middle of the cadenza, you've exhausted all your resources and still you have to take 10 more flights. And I think if you're really able to plan this climb it has such an important and powerful dramatic effect, it makes the listener forget about how difficult the technical aspect of it is and really see it as very important point, dramatic point, of the piece. And the longer that I play the concerto and especially as you play it live and you're able to live through the music, I think the cadenza is a catalyst for the rest of the concerto."
The intermezzo, the third movement, of the Piano Concerto No. 2 was once described by Richter as the image of Goya's Saturn devouring his son. I asked Anna if she identifies with that image? "Yes, I absolutely love this description," she says. "I think it really describes the feeling. Also my way of describing it is maybe it's a movement of a very charismatic villain - somebody who is funny and sarcastic but at the same it's not a good person speaking, it's the darkness that is presented in that movement. It's very kind of twisted humor. It's really fun to become that character when playing the concerto. I think I have the most fun when I play this movement in the concerto."
Prokofiev once said, "To write only according to the rules laid down by classical composers of the past means to be only a pupil and not a master." Prokofiev was a master. According to Anna, he was well aware of his greatness. "He was by no means a modest man," she says. "As a child, a lot of his classmates didn't like him because he would point out their mistakes. But in a way the artist's role is to challenge us and to open new horizons. Prokofiev already in his time he was expected, even by people who weren't completely open to his style of music, they couldn't help but be enchanted by his charisma and the great vision he had for the sounds."
Anna Shelest offers her enchanting vision of Prokofiev's first two piano concertos with the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra and Niels Muus conducting.
This week on New Classical Tracks, you can enter for a chance to win a copy of Anna Shelest's recordings of Sergei Prokofiev's piano concertos No. 1 and 2. Winners will be drawn at random. Be sure to enter by midnight CDT on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016.
Each week KDFC: San Francisco members can download a free mp3 from some of the biggest releases in the world of Classical music. This week's pick is a Sorel Classics release and new recording of Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No.1, in D flat, Op.10 and Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 16 (SC CD006), performed by the Ukrainian-born, Julliard-trained pianist Anna Shelest, with the Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra, Niels Muus, conductor.
Sergei Prokofiev began composing his Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat major, Op. 10, in 1911 and finished it in 1912. A one-movement concerto, it is the shortest of his five complete piano concertos, lasting only around a quarter of an hour. Sergei Prokofiev began work on his Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 16, in 1912 and completed it in 1913. But this concerto was lost; the score was apparently destroyed in a fire following the Russian Revolution. Prokofiev reconstructed the work in 1923, and dedicated it to the memory of Maximilian Schmidthof, a friend of the composer's at the St. Petersburg Conservatory.
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Pianist Anna Shelest was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine. A multi-award winning artist, she won her first competition when she was only eleven. She has since gone on to win many more. Recorded in the Czech Republic in 2014, this release features Prokofiev's Piano Concertos Nos 1 and 2. These works were written early in his career, and feature the virtuosic and wildly dissonant style which caused his first leap into fame.
The Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No 1 in D-flat major, Op 10 (16:47) from Prokofiev: Piano Concertos 1 & 2 by Anna Shelest, piano; Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra / Niels Muus on Sorel Classics is the WFMT: Chicago - New Release Of the Day for Thursday June 30
Sorel Classics is a new non-profit label devoted to highlighting the talent and achievements of singers, instrumentalists and composers. For its inaugural album, Sorel introduces Anna Shelest, a native of Ukraine who now resides in New York. She has been described as an artist of "fiery sensibility and warm touch" by the New York Times. Shelest came to the attention of Sorel after a Carnegie Hall performance as first prize winner of the Bradshaw & Buono International Piano Competition.
The Bach/Busoni: Solo Violin Partita No 2 in D minor, BWV 1004: Chaconne (15:37) from Anna Shelest's Spirit and Romance on Sorel Classics is a WFMT: Chicago - New Release Of the Week.
Each week, KDFC: San Francisco members can download a free mp3 from some of the biggest releases in the world of Classical music.
The Sorel Charitable Organization celebrates the launch of Ukrainian-born pianist Anna Shelest's (rhymes wtih Celeste) and her latest CD, Spirit and Romance. Presenting a selection of works by Bach, Liszt, Schubert, Wagner, Busoni and Schumann, the mission of Sorel Classics,is to highlight the talent and achievements of female singers, instrumentalists, and composers of classical music.
Download Shelest's performance of Schubert's Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel right here!