Creative Arts Center hosts doctoral piano recital
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 00:01
One of West Virginia University’s most distinguished piano students, Yana Tyulkova, performed her second doctoral solo recital Wednesday night in Bloch Learning and Performance Hall in the Creative Arts Center.
Tyulkova has been studying to receive her Doctor of Musical Arts in piano performance and now has three semesters left in the eight-semester program.
She played four pieces with remarkable precision and passion, including two crafted by Spanish composer Enrique Granados: "Lament, or The Maiden and the Nightingale" and "Spanish Dances Opus 5."
These songs were as pleasant and romantic as her playing, and the audience watched Tyulkova sway and react to the emotion of the music.
"Spanish is very colorful. I’ve been in Spain a few times," Tyulkova said. "I get a feeling of this country, and when I play these harmonic progressions and the melody, the spirit comes to me."
She also let Ludwig van Beethoven’s famous Sonata Opus 57, "Appassionata," effortlessly roll off her fingers.
Her final piece was serial composer William Bolcom’s "Nine Bagatelles." This piece is comprised of nine movements, most of which revolve around rapid, complex and seemingly random harmonies. Tyulkova’s hands leapt across the keys as her face reflected the puzzling notes.
Tyulkova said this was the first time she had attempted such a chaotic style and explained the learning process was much longer than with traditional music.
"It’s hard to get the material inside of you; like when you play ‘Moonlight Sonata,’ the melody is so easy you can remember it from the first thing," she said. "But this pointillistic melody – it’s not a melody – it’s just like dots of notes … You are playing for three months already, but you get the feeling that you still sight read."
Tyulkova grew up in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, and has been studying classical piano since she was five years old.
She received her undergraduate and master’s degree in piano performance in Russia.
"My life is kind of a spiral," Tyulkova said. "There was a circle when I was a classical music girl until 24 – only classical. Then, jazz came to my life and classical music disappears for 10 years."
To pursue her infatuation with jazz, she moved to America and applied to Berklee College of Music to study jazz vocals.
After receiving her diploma, she returned to Russia, where she ran her own vocal teaching studio for nine years.
She moved back to America to teach piano after marrying jazz saxophonist Curtis Johnson, but Tyulkova was discouraged to find many universities would not allow her to teach with her Russian diplomas.
She decided to audition for WVU’s doctoral program and was given a full scholarship to study piano performance.
"Studying here in WVU actually has another side. This academic program is so hard, and you have to find the time to practice," Tyulkova said. "You have to plan your day very closely."
Currently, she juggles her required work at WVU with homework, practicing and teaching in Pittsburgh on Saturdays.
On top of all this, she still can’t escape her love of jazz, so she sings in a big band with her husband on top of several other side projects.
Tyulkova said she always plays whatever she wants and would never choose piano or singing over the other.
"Who you love more: mother or father? You cannot say," she said.