Sunday, January 26, 2003

Classical music

Bespalko keys on Bach and a baby


Pianist Polina Bespalko, 25, had a dilemma last year when she was invited to perform during the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake. It was exactly when she had agreed to perform on the other side of the world - in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory in Russia.

But after Salt Lake presenters "called and called and asked and called," Ms. Bespalko says, they changed their dates to accommodate her. She gave her "Olympian" performance (and also saw Russia play the United States in hockey), then flew to Moscow where she performed J.S. Bach's Concerto for Four Pianos.

"It was a really neat experience. It is music that will never die," the Moscow Conservatory graduate says in a halting Russian accent.

A few months later, she was back in Moscow to perform for "Stars of the Kremlin," a music festival held in - that's right, the Kremlin. Then Ms. Bespalko, who is completing her master's degree in piano at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, dashed home to prepare for her master's recital in October.

A week after that, she was in Washington, D.C., to give a recital at the Phillips Collection, something she found "less nerve wracking" than playing for her peers and profs at CCM. The concert, a showcase for emerging musical talent, was taped for future broadcast. It was one of her prizes for winning the Silver Medal in the Wideman Piano Competition in Shreveport, La., last year.

But her biggest news isn't musical. Ms. Bespalko and her husband Gary Ellerhorst, a member of Cincinnati's Southern Gateway Chorus, are proud parents of

5-month-old Nadya. Baby goes to school with Ms. Bespalko, while she completes her work.

"She is a musical baby," Ms. Bespalko says.

- Janelle Gelfand

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