Grand Piano Series: Spanish Rhapsody Feb. 9

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By Sue Wade
Grand Piano Series’ upcoming Spanish Rhapsody should come with a warning label.
Spanish-influenced music can so sweep you up in its repetitive rhythms and lush melodies that you might be tempted to seize someone and dance.
Whether or not they were Spanish themselves, composers since the late 19th century have reveled in Spanish instrumental colors and rhythms. Some, including Hungarian composer Franz Liszt, fell under the music’s spell and composed their own Spanish rhapsodies as a result.
It’s no accident that half of this Spanish Rhapsody is the work of turn-of-the-20th-century Spanish composer/pianist Enrique Granados. His pieces were once described as “a gorgeous treat for the fingers. … One has the voluptuous sense of passing the fingers through masses of richly colored jewels.”
In this program, presented in partnership with Michigan’s renowned Gilmore Piano Festival, prize-winning Gilmore Young Artist and Juilliard School pianist Janice Carissa’s gifted fingers will deliver the recital’s first Granados gems. Who better than an Indonesian artist who’s been praised for radiating “the multicolor highlights of a mature pianist” and having a “fleet-fingered touch” that “conveys a vivid story”?
Meanwhile, Naples Grand Piano Series fans keep asking president and artistic director Milana Strezeva when they’ll get to see her perform again. This is their first chance this season.
After intermission, Spanish Rhapsody stirs operatic voice, cello and Strezeva herself into an incandescent onstage mix of flamenco-driven song.
Praised by critics for her “technically fluid, dramatically convincing, and sonically full-bodied supportive collaborations,” Strezeva always electrifies audiences.
The Juilliard School graduate, concert pianist and founding member of the award-winning Manhattan Piano Trio explained her love of the chamber music format in which she again finds herself: “Chamber music has been part of my life since I was born. My mom was an opera singer, and my dad was a principal clarinet player at the Moldova National Opera and Ballet. We started performing together when I was 11 years old.
“It’s so important in any great chamber music collaboration to have teamwork and respect for one another. Not only do you have amazing players, you have to trust one another deeply. You have to be present in the moment and listen to one another. That’s what makes the magic happen.”
There’s no question that there will be magic when Argentinian bel canto tenor Santiago Ballerini joins Strezeva on stage.
Ballerini has brought his talents to the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto, the Kennedy Center, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires and the Opéra Comique in Paris.
The sensuous cello also lends itself to the triple-note rhythms that we recognize as Spanish. Contemporary Billboard-Charting cellist Laura Metcalf joins Strezeva and Ballerini in the concert’s second half.
A sought-after chamber musician and collaborator, whose music has been streamed over 2 million times on Spotify, Metcalf is drawn to projects that push the boundaries defining classical chamber music.
Spanish Rhapsody will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9 at St. Leo Auditorium, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. Tickets may be purchased online at or by calling 469-333-3231.


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