Monday, September 28, 2009

September 28 Programme

We thank Steinway Piano Gallery of Hollywood for supporting CU mission and for providing their incredible D291 concert fleet piano that sounded within “Grand Atelier” unique acoustics and setting like nothing we’ve ever heard.
Thank you, Gavin! Thank you, Jura!

alexey steele presents

Chamber Music Series
Music Director Maksim Velichkin


M. Bruch. Kol Nidrei
Maksim Velichkin-cello, Yana Reznik-piano

B. Smetana. Piano Trio 1st m-nt
Julia Salerno-violin, Joo Lee-cello, David Kempe-piano

Marcel Grandjany. Pastorale
Vanessa Sheldon. Journey of a Falling Leaf
Gabriel Fauré. Pavane
Gioaccino Rossini. Allegro Brillante from Sonata for Harp
Vanessa Sheldon-harp

Frederic Chopin Mazurka C sharp minor, Op. 30, No. 4 (1810 -1849)
Ballade in G minor, Op. 23
Jura Margulis-piano

Paul Coletti "From My Heart"
Tina Guo-cello, Yana Reznik-piano

Paul Spaeth. Inner Realm
Parts I, II, III
A. Copland "The Cat and the Mouse"
Yana Reznik-piano

N. Paganini. Moses Variations
Tina Guo, Maksim Velichkin-celli


Claude Debussy Reflets dans l'eau (1862-1918) L´isle joyeuse
Jura Margulis-piano

M. de Falla. Siete Canciones Populares
Charlene Chi-mezzo-soprano, Jordan Rashkov-piano

N. Paganini. Nel Cor Piu
Roberto Cani-violin

A. Scriabin. Sonata #5
Pavel Petrov-piano

Gernot Wolfgang. Common Ground
1. Blues Upside Down
2. Trading Places
3. Igor, At Last
Armen Ksajikian-cello
Judith Farmer-bassoon

E. Chausson Poeme
Radu Pieptea-violin, Kanae Matsumoto-piano



focusing on a classical art form of serious contemporary representational art

Fr. Electrico Bronze · 36" x 18" x 18"


Monday, September 21, 2009

Jura Margulis Coming to Classical Underground!

CU celebrates the first participation of an old friend, the international concert pianist and recording artist Jura Margulis, who comes to LA to play for us from Fayetteville, where he is the McAllister Professor of Piano at the University of Arkansas.

When Jura Margulis will come up to play on Sept. 28, it will certainly be a rare moment for all music lovers at CU; it will also be a very special moment for me personally. It is not only because Jura is a world class pianist and a close personal friend, it is also because Jura is a second generation of world class pianists close personal friends.
His father, Prof. Vitaly Margulis, one of the world greatest and renowned piano gurus whom I consider one of genuine High Priests of Music and Arts, is one of the friends of youth of my father. He is also one of the essential influences in my love of Classical Music. It started way back in the late 40s, very hard years right after the devastation of Nazi invasion and what is known in Russia as Great Patriotic War. My Dad’s first love Emma, a wonderful pianist with whom they remained life-long friends, once took him, as she put it very simply and understatedly, to “hear a Genius.” My Dad was a bright young star-student at the Leningrad Art Academy /Repin Institute/ and the “Genius” was a star-student of the Leningrad Conservatory rocking the vibrant world of Leningrad music lovers. It was, of course, Vitaly Margulis. They became instant friends until Vitaly immigrated to the West in the 70s to become one of the world’s most admired piano teachers and a musicians’ musician. After not seeing each other for almost 25 years, they improbably reunited in Los Angeles as Vitaly came from Germany to assume his professor position at UCLA.

Childhood memories of our Kiev living-room gatherings and Vitaly’s world of worshipping true ART and the magic of inseparable interaction of music and painting that he brought with him to LA became some of the most important inspirations for our Classical Underground model. Soon after joyous and much celebrated in various forms reunion, which included incidentally our joined experience of 1994 Northridge Earthquake in our Marina Del Rey apartment, I met Jura, who just came to the US to study with legendary Leon Fleisher in Baltimore.

Right after we met and started talking, we’d spend till morning wee hours in a continuous conversations (amongst other things) about ART, its place and future in human society, about our visions, dreams, and hopes. Rarely had I seen anyone with a similar combination and facility of musical and intellectual prowess. Rarely had I met anyone who shared my views on ART and its future more fundamentally and intensely. Some of our grand ideas turned into earliest projects in spreading our message that we created together. For over a decade, before CU, we have been talking about what is High ART and how to guard and preserve it for posterity, how to give it new life and how to present it to the present, how it can and will change the world. What fun it was…and most definitely, many years after, still is.

I shall say no more of Jura, as his numerous recordings, international critical praise and his unique and magnificent music making speak for themselves. Come, meet, and hear him on September 28th.

Alexey Steele

P.S. Jura, a Steinway Artist, is the reason we will have a magnificent Steinway Grand piano for our concert on September 28th. When he visited CU in May this year, he said: we need a better piano. He contacted Steinway in New York, pulled a few strings, and sure enough – with great people like Gavin at Steinway Hollywood we got a full feature sponsoring of our event. We hope this is the beginning of a long friendship ...

About Jura Margulis:

Pianist Jura Margulis has been recognized for his compellingly communicative performances, as well as for the range of his tonal palette and his consummate virtuosity. Reviewers have praised the “absolute authority” of his interpretations and the sense of “controlled obsession” he transmits at the keyboard (Fono Forum). The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung noted that his aesthetic is both “impulsive and contemplative.” The Los Angeles Times praised his “excellent pianism” and called him “highly musical”. The Washington Post applauded his “titanic reserves of sheer power” and his “effortless spontaneity.”

His orchestral appearances include performances with the Russian National Orchestra, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, and the Südwestrundfunk Orchestra. He has played in numerous festivals, including the Schleswig Holstein Musik Festival, the Berliner Festwochen, the International Sommeracademy Mozarteum in Austria, the Verbier Festival in Switzerland, and the Argerich-Beppu Music Festival in Japan. He has won prizes in more than a dozen international competitions, including Busoni in Italy and Guardian in Ireland. He is also a recipient of the esteemed Pro Europa prize awarded by the European Foundation for Culture. Active as a chamber musician, Margulis has performed recitals with, among others, Dmitry Sitkovetsky, the soloists of the Moscow Virtuosi, members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Moscow String Quartet. He also concertizes with Martha Argerich on two pianos in Germany, Japan, and the USA.

Margulis latest CD

Margulis is a third generation pianist and teacher and gives master classes in the USA, Europe, and Asia. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Jura Margulis was raised in Germany, where he studied with his father, Dr. Vitaly Margulis, at the Musikhochschule in Freiburg. He was also a student at the prestigious Fondazione per il Pianoforte in Cadenabbia at Lake Como in Italy. He moved to the United States to study with Leon Fleisher at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, and made the US his home. Margulis is the inaugural holder of the "Emily J. McAllister Endowed Professorship in Piano" at the J.W. Fulbright College of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

Jura Margulis’ full bio can be seen at

Saturday, September 19, 2009

LA Times Gives Major Endorsement to Classical Underground and Steinway Piano Gallery of Hollywood Sponsoring our September Event

classical underground is endorsed by LA Times

What a hot summer we got! There is so much great news to report! With an amazing LA Times endorsement of the Classical Underground concept, our cause is definitely taken us to the next step of sharing our message that ART in its true and pure form has a major role in the modern society despite of what anyone says or even to all the evidence to a contrary. Serving ART within a modern commercial world – is an ultimate act of defiance. Classical Underground proved to be a platform that can and will amplify all the voices of such defiance. That is what we stand upon and nothing else matters.

It also seems that an unlikely idea of presenting ART free of any commercial reasoning is getting its own ragtag gang of supporters. And what supporters they are!

is our official sponsor for the next event

We are extremely proud and delighted to announce that our new friend in this magical town of ours - Steinway Piano Gallery of Hollywood will be sponsoring our next event!

Not only they will provide their incomparable instrument /Model ...D... Concert... Grand... no less - whole 9' of it! / thanks to our dear friend and Steinway Artist Jura Margulis performing as part of our program, but also they will underwrite the substantial transportation costs, a highly unusual and most generous gesture for which we are deeply grateful.

From our point of view Steinway is not just another business or brand - it is one of the true and rare synonymies of "ART" at its sublime and exalting. We are so ecstatically happy that for the next evening the famous Steinway sound will merge with our very special Classical Underground Sound.

The amazing level of our musicians, our incomparable audience and the very special atmosphere and spirit of CU truly need the instrument that will match them. It is our deep belief that this instrument is the Steinway piano, the one and only, and we are so appreciative that for this night our dream comes true. Thank you, Gavin, Thank you, Jura!

We much look forward to Steinway's great future /as business/ in this town as well as for our continuous friendship and collaborations.

from Adina and Liviu

Another great example of pure generosity of heart is a completely unexpected gesture of our “true believers”, loyal CU listeners and great art enthusiasts Liviu and Adina Eftime. You are not going to believe this, but they came the other day taking a two-hour drive and very demurringly asked to help them with the box out of their car. In it there was a brand new, top-of-the-line piano bench, which every pianist that ever had to pull books from my library before performance knows how desperately we needed. Full leather lift for four hands…if this is not a pure kindness of heart, than what is?! Thank you, Liviu, Thank you, Adina!

Adina and Liviu with their gift - the piano bench

What a great reminder that CU is a unique and collective collaborative effort for the common goal. We just all do our part and to every one in our magnificent all-volunteer crew alone with every musician and painter that ever graced all of us with their incomparable gifts we owe such great measure of gratitude. That is what keeps ART alive.


Another great news and the next subversive adventure to come is our very own Classical Underground recording label. The tracks for the first album sound absolutely remarkable, perfectly conveying the intimate presence of our unique setting. That is thanks to the tireless and selfless efforts of our unsung CU hero, our very own Steinway tech guru and genuine sound magician Oleg Schramm.

Oleg Schramm

I would like to take this moment to extend the heart-felt gratitude to musicians and painters who pursue nobly their ARTS despite all, to our great audience that is a future of Classical Music and Arts, and to our remarkable all-volunteer crew of joint collaborators:

Maksim Velichkin – cellist, our great Music Director and a co-founder of music series
Oleg Schramm – a recording artist, who rocks on keyboard with the greatest in the game, top-gun Steinway tech and recording expert, our incomparable and selfless sound magician
Olga Vlasova – the artist in heart, marketing and management guru, whose “capitalist shark” credentials will be essential to CU growth beyond our walls
Julie Resh – our own video wiz, veteran Hollywood exec, and a musician soul, her insightful videos will enable to share the CU experience as wide as broadband gets

Charles and an Unnamed friend whose help with all that needs to be helped with in order to stay the course is so appreciated.

And, of course, our true hero, inspiring friend who set the new standards of what it means to support ART today and how it could be done outside of all existing establishment structures – Rick Rand, nothing would’ve ever happened without him. Thank you Rick for your friendship and for your true heart!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

From a Very Special Listener

During our August concert we had a very special person, a true musical savant in our audience. We wanted to share the unique story about him written by his mother, Cathleen Lewis.

Rex Lewis-Clack is an exceptional 14-year old. He is exceptionally gifted and exceptionally challenged. Blind, autistic, musical genius—that’s Rex … and that’s quite a mix! When Rex was invited to attend the Classical Underground event August 3 by his new friend and voice coach Sam McElroy, he was instantly captivated, first by the warm greeting he received and then by the feel and sound of the unique place. When he arrived, Alexey Steele came to greet him, and Rex immediately began a spiel from his own press, “Alexey, I’ve been profiled three times by CBS’ 60 Minutes, who labeled me a ‘musical savant’ (no pause for breath) that means I have an island of genius in a sea of disability . . . But Alexey didn’t accept the press version, cutting in with, “Rexy, Rexy … come on … all that means is you can really play music, right!?” Alexey punctuated with a laugh that struck a resonant chord with Rex, who broke out laughing himself! And with that, the tone for the evening was set. Later that evening, Rex said the music was so “big in his ears” that he felt like he was playing the piano himself!

Rex’s world was a dark place of chaos and dysfunction when he began playing the piano at age 2. He was blind with such heightened sensitivity to touch and sound from autism (imagine hearing a light switch like it’s sonic boom, or feeling the need to curl you hands into fists to avoid the merest touch) that getting through each day was a tortured balancing act for mere survival. Doctors thought he might never walk or talk. Then Rex discovered the magic of music . . . and transcendence. Banging away on the little keyboard he’d been given for his second birthday, notes began to take form, and Rex began unlocking the mysteries of his world. Notes, intervals, rhythms . . . a world of creativity and order . . . and life! Alongside the blindness and autism, Rex had an extremely rare gift . . . he had a whole world of music already in his head. He didn’t understand the chaotic world, but he did understand music, notably classical music! And when he heard (or played) a classical piece, there was a look of such intelligence and absorption on his face, that it was like he was leaving his disability behind to stroll in the heavenly realms with the likes of Mozart or Beethoven. As Rex began speaking the language of the classics, the cacophony that was the rest of the world began to transform into a place of beauty and laughter as well.

CBS 60-minutes: Catching Up with Rex

Today Rex’s music is infused with joy . . . as is his life. He continues to defy the expectations of doctors and educational specialists as he’s a living example of the healing power of music. He not only walks and talks, he runs and skies, is learning to sing opera, and travels the world meeting people and sharing his unique musical gift. In addition to the three 60 Minutes profiles that have aired to date on the 14-year old (the newsmagazine began following Rex’s life when he was only 7!) he has been the subject of various documentaries around the world, including, “Musical Savants” for the Discovery Health Channel and Britain’s “The Musical Genius” with Derek Paravicini. Rex was the recipient of the 2006 “Winspiration Award” in Germany where he traveled to perform, for taking the hand he’s been dealt in life and using it not just to “win” himself, but to “inspire” others to do the same. Blind, autistic, genius? A lot of labels people try to attach to Rex, but Alexey Steele got it right, they don’t mean anything to Rex, because he lives his life beyond labels . . . he’s just Rex! And like Alexey, Rex loves to laugh! And he uses music to celebrate his uniqueness and to celebrate life!

We all are looking forward to Rex playing at our Classical Underground!