A Passion For Piano! Yana Reznik's Size Conceals Big Talent

By Rick Nelson

Those who attend Yana Reznik’s concert in Ontario on Feb. 7 may want to be on their best behavior, but their worst might work, too. That’s because Reznik, a classical pianist originally from Russia, is toting a video camera on her U.S. tour for a documentary that she hopes to parlay into a reality television series.

“I’m hoping to eventually create a TV series, “ the engaging and much-praised pianist said during a tour stop in Silver City, N.M. “Personally, I’m very frustrated with the kinds of reality shows on TV. There’s no reality show that has anything to do with culture or classical music.”

But Reznik, who moved to the U.S. from her native Moscow at the age of 14, is a realist about the reality genre. She lives in Southern California and has been warned that reality shows seem to require outrageous conduct.

“I brought this idea up with friends who work ‘in the industry’ as they say in Los Angeles, “ she said, “and they’d say ‘Well, you’ll have to travel with a bunch of weirdos, and you’ll have to build this plot and dramatic relationships.’ But I know there is an audience out there that is missing something that is cultural, intellectual and entertaining at the same time.”

Those qualities pretty well describe what Reznik will be offering in her two-hour Community Concerts of Treasure Valley performance on the Meyer-McLean stage.

“I’m doing mainly classical, of course,” she said, “but I try to choose repertoire that is mainly familiar to people like ‘Fantasie-Impromptu’ by Chopin or Liszt’s ‘Lieberstraum,’ which are pretty standard if you like classical music.

“Also I’ll try to stretch their minds a little bit with this piece by Tchaikovsky called ‘Dumka.’ It’s almost never played, but it has a really interesting story behind it, and one of my passions is telling stories in concert. I think when people leave they actually like the stories as much as the music.”

Reznik is a good storyteller, which she proved in describing the challenges of performing on a different piano every night or so.

“You never know what you’ll get,” she said with a laugh. “Sometimes there’s like a great Steinway, but it used to be great 40 or 50 years ago and no one has been taking care of it. That puts a tremendous strain on you because you have to pace yourself so you don’t just die getting through the concert.”

And even Reznik can’t compensate from piano problems such as one that occurred during a concert in New York.

“In the middle of my performance, the pedals fell off the Steinway,” she said. “It was Rachmaninoff. If I was playing Mozart or Bach, I could have faked it, but Rachmaninoff? With him, the whole thing is based on how much pedal can you use. So here I am playing this passionate, crazy piece and all of a sudden the piano falls apart. I had to finish the piece, and it sounded horrible.”

Reznik, who is 31 and engaged to be married, is used to facing challenges.

“When I was a little girl in Moscow,” she said, “one of my very first teachers kept telling my mother ‘I don’t think she’ll ever become a pianist. Her hands aren’t growing, and she’s so tiny.’”

Fortunately another teacher, one who also had small hands, told her she could learn to play with world-class power and finesse. Reznik’s training includes study at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City and the Rachmaninoff School of Music in Moscow.

“It just takes more effort for me to do what I do because I’m smaller,” Reznik said.

Life on the road isn’t all hotel rooms and bad pianos. “Cool stuff is always happening,” she said. She played a great piano at a college in Kansas and recently met another remarkable “performer” on tour.

“(Vladimir) Horowitz used to travel everywhere with his legendary 503 Steinway,” Reznik said. “Now that instrument is on tour, and last week I played on it. It was an incredible feeling. Horowitz played with completely flat fingers, and his wrists were really low. His hands were almost like a butterfly fluttering over the keyboard. Of course, that was everything my teachers told us not to do. But his piano whispers, and it roars. It has this incredible sound. It still has this silver, gold, bell-like sound, even in the quietest passages. That was really cool.”

One suspects that Reznik can coax “whispers” and “roars” from just about any piano she plays. “I had a pretty bad upright piano when I was little,’ she said with a laugh, “ and my teacher always told me ‘If you can make this sound good, you’ll make anything sound good.’”

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