Gulf Theater to host award winning piano trio

Milana Strezeva, a Naples resident and a founding member of the Manhattan Piano Trio, will be joined by Solomiya Ivakhiv on violin and Sophie Shao on cello.

When Milana Strezeva began planning the Manhattan Piano Trio’s program for its performance at the Gulf Theater at the Military Heritage Museum, she turned to folk music for inspiration.

The program, scheduled for Feb. 23, will feature “masterpieces by Haydn, Schumann, Dvorak and a Ukrainian composer whose music is little known in the U.S., Anatol Kos-Anatolsky,” the pianist said. “We’ve prepared a program that can be enjoyed by people of all backgrounds.”

Strezeva, a Naples resident and a founding member of the Manhattan Piano Trio, will be joined by two young performers based in New York, Sophie Shao on cello and Solomiya Ivakhiv on violin. Both are instructors at the University of Connecticut.

“Their passion for their art comes through in their playing,” Strezeva said.

The Manhattan Piano Trio was formed in New York in 2004, and in one incarnation or another has played hundreds of concerts over the years for enthusiastic audiences in almost 40 states. The trio has earned recognition at the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition, the Plowman Chamber Music Competition, and the Yellow Springs Chamber Music Competition, among others.

Gulf Theater manager Isaac James, himself a classical pianist, called the trio “One of the most virtuosic, talented and artistic young ensembles today.”

Strezeva promises a program that is melodic, romantic and accessible to the audience. But the group’s mission is broader than one performance.

She has selected Joseph Haydn’s “Piano Trio No. 39” in G major, Hob. XV/25; Kos-Anatolsky’s “Poeme for Violin and Piano; Robert Schumann’s “Five pieces in Folk Style, Op. 102” and Antonín Dvoráks “Piano Trio No. 4 in E minor Op. 90.”

“It’s a beautiful program,” Strezeva said. “We have been focusing on encouraging people to start listening. “There’s a lot of noise around us today, but people aren’t listening. They’re not listening to one another’s stories, to each other. I strongly believe listening can be fostered in a concert setting.”

Strezeva, a Juilliard graduate and the daughter of renowned soprano, Svetlana Strezeva, the “Russian Nightingale,” said she feels a sense of proprietorship for classical music. She believes that it must be preserved not only because of the historical nature of its works, but because it’s good music.

“It’s vital,” she said. Classical music is the “height of our human achievement. Keeping classical music alive is really preserving who we essentially are. It is the most exciting sound the human mind could come up with. It’s our role, our mission as performers, to be able to communicate that to our audience.”

The Manhattan Piano Trio’s website is www.manhattanpianotrio.com.

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