Next week, Hillsdale College students and faculty will have the opportunity to hear a sampling of Russian culture thanks to Katherine Rick, adjunct professor of piano and staff accompanist at the college. Rick’s upcoming piano recital, “From Russia with Love,” will include pieces spanning three distinct eras of classical Russian music and feature three Russian composers. The performance will be Monday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. in Conrad Recital Hall.
“I hope to expose people to the breadth of Russian music,” Rick said. “The first composer, Rachmaninoff, is very much in the post-romantic, westernized Russian style. Prokofiev is in the Soviet, mid-20th century style with all the dissonance that comes with it, and then Mussorgsky represents the folklore and historic side of Russian culture. I think among those three composers you can get a sense of the uniquely Russian contributions to classical music.”
The recital theme was inspired by Rick’s experience growing up in Russia. The child of missionaries, Rick and her family moved to Russia when she was five. Soon after, her brother began taking piano lessons from their mother. Rick’s competitive streak flared and she insisted on taking lessons as well. Within six months, however, her mother recognized her daughter’s talent and enrolled her at a pre-conservatory piano program in Yakutsk, a town in northeastern Siberia. Rick’s family moved to St. Petersburg when she was 11 years old and she continued her musical education at a conservatory. There, students were immediately placed on one of three tracks: professional, middling, or amateur. Rick was placed on the professional track.
“The Russian system is very intense and very immersive,” Rick said. “The school I went to was actually a boarding school, although I lived at home. You’d have three or four lessons a week plus classes in music history, music theory, ensembles like choir or chamber music, plus all the general education courses. It was a tough system, the kind of place where if you don’t keep up you get kicked out.”
Although it was challenging, Rick appreciates the preparation she was given. Now, gratitude for the rigorous training she received is something she hopes to convey to her audience.
“This is my third year at Hillsdale and I wanted to bring something from my background to the college,” Rick said. “The theme of the recital draws on my experience growing up there. Through my graduate studies I focused on Russian music. I did my doctoral thesis on Rachmaninoff and then my lecture recital on the first piece I’ll be playing, the Rachmaninoff ‘Variations on a Theme of Corelli.’”
Sophomore Sofia Krusmark has been taking piano lessons from Rick for two semesters and credits her with reigniting her love for music.
“I went to a concert the first semester of my freshman year, where Dr. Rick was playing with Dr. Blackham,” Krusmark said. “It was enthralling to watch her. She is so articulate. She hits the notes perfectly. She’s able to make her pieces a story and make it look easy. She’s a miracle, as a person and as a pianist.”
Krusmark urges her fellow students to attend the recital.
“You will not be disappointed,” she said. “I think you will go and see something beautiful because you’re going to see a woman who has devoted her life to playing music beautifully and to giving that gift to other people. That’s really special and people should go to celebrate the gift that she has given to so many of us.”