On Tuesday, Feb. 13, pianist Polina Kulikova, winner of the 2017 Jacob Flier Piano Competition, brought her talents to the Julien J. Studley Theatre at SUNY New Paltz for an hour-long recital.
“New Paltz is a very special place for me. I attended the Piano Summer Festival here last year, and it was such a wonderful experience,” said Kulikova. “Very intense masterclass with brilliant professors, nice opportunities to perform, very welcoming audience, and a very warm friendly environment.”
Kulikova, who was born in Ekaterinburg, Russia, began playing the piano at the age of four.
“My parents are both pianists, so to me it was very natural to spend some time playing the piano,” she said.
She began studying at a music school in 1996, and in 2016, graduated from the Moscow State Tchaikovsky conservatory. Kulikova has performed all over the world, including Russia, USA, Germany, Japan, and Poland, to name a few.
“I like to perform in different venues. Big concert halls are great! And I also like to be in smaller halls, or in “salons,” as it feels much cozier and closer to the audience. I like to feel connected with the audience while performing. Also, some churches are very open to classical music and have good pianos, and of course there is a very special atmosphere,” said Kulikova.
The set consisted of three pieces: Fantasy in D minor, K 397 (W.A. Mozart), Sonata in C minor, D 958 (F. Schubert) and three movements from Petrushka (I. Stravinsky).
“It’s a shortened version of the program for my Carnegie Debut (there I will also play 24 Preludes op. 11 by Alexander Scriabin). We were deciding on the program together with Professor Feltsman,” she said. “It consists of the pieces I really love, being placed in chronological order: from European music (Mozart and Schubert) to Russian music at the turn of nineteenth-twentieth century (Scriabin and Stravinsky).”
As Kulikova performed, her passion for the piano was clear. Often times, she would look up, or close her eyes, a skill that is a testament to her lifelong commitment to the craft. Another impressive moment in the recital was when an overhead light burst, producing a loud noise, and Kulikova didn’t even flinch.
“She was so unphased. I got goosebumps, I was blown away, literally,” said first-year Giuliana Ponterotto, who attended the event.
Kulikova’s focus wasn’t the only impressive part of the set. Her ability to transition from light, airy notes to loud, darker ones was nothing short of professional. The pieces themselves were also impressive: the second piece of the night, “Sonata in C minor,” lasted almost 30 minutes, and Kulikova played it all the way through, with only a few second-long breaks.
“Music is a unique language, which gives the ability to speak directly to people’s hearts. I wish to serve people with the music, to give time and opportunity to just stop for several minutes and feel something special, or think about something special,” said Kulikova. “And it makes me very happy when I can really achieve it. If I’m able to give someone a chance to touch the eternal beauty – it means that all the effort that I put to be an artist is not wasted.”
Kulikova’s recital on Tuesday was only a preview, of her upcoming debut performance at Carnegie Weill Hall in New York City on Tuesday, Feb. 20. where she will perform an extended version of the set performed at New Paltz.