That’s how I would call my encounter with pianist and composer Vladimir Romanov who I have heard nothing about until recently. It all began with a surprise phone call from a stranger who introduced himself as Peter Weekes.  He and his wife Gina Sanders asked me to help them to spread the word about Vladimir’s concert within our community. I was certainly happy to help. The concert was held in Auckland in September under the title Music in the North, East, West and South. What a fantastic and enjoyable night it was, presenting me with a chance to meet the performers and organisers, in person.

I must say that the concert fully earned its title as all the musicians and performers originally came from different parts of the world. Many of them now live in New Zealand, including soprano Gina Sanders, who is well known in the music world and was the main concert organiser; Dr Lara Hall, a superb violin soloist; Chris Artley, a New Zealand-based composer and multifaceted musician from the UK who now works at King’s College in Auckland; and finally Vladimir Romanov, a remarkable Russian-born musician who now lives in Germany. A Google search for Vladimir’s name returned with an impressive result. After graduating from Moscow Conservatory, Vladimir actively and successfully performed at many famous European venues as a pianist, and as a composer collaborated with various musical groups and opera houses. He composes music in different genres: opera and musicals, symphonic and church music. Winner of prestigious awards, his music is popular amongst well-known performers and orchestras.  

The concert was held at St Benedict’s Church where I also met Olga Tarasenko, musician and director of the Our Home Cultural Centre. She had not heard about Vladimir Romanov either and was very excited about an introduction to his music.

The concert celebrated music of two brilliant contemporary classical composers. The first half featured choral works for soloists, choir, organ and various solo instruments by Chris Artley, while the second half was entirely devoted to Stabat Mater written by Vladimir Romanov in 2013. Both composers deserve our attention, although in this instance we would like to focus more on Romanov’s Stabat Mater.

It has to be said that the Southern Hemisphere premiere was a complete success! The powerful sound of music, exploring deep and diverse emotion transported us from one state to another: from deep despair to radiant hope, from liberation to hopelessness … Soloists Gina Sanders (soprano) and Lara Hall (violin) were very convincing and skilful in delivering the expressive side of the performance. Their interwoven duet, merging and complementing each other on the one hand, and full of detachment and contradiction on the other hand, demonstrated how deeply they “interpreted” the underlying meaning of this musical dialogue – the endless and unbearable pain of the mother expressed by the solo violin, and strength and celebration of the victory of Spirit and Faith delivered by the vocals. It felt like their interaction was guided by the music flow immersing us into the depth of this experience.

As Vladimir Romanov was sitting in the auditorium listening to his music together with his wife Elena Konson, we could occasionally catch a glimpse of their reaction. While both of them looked excited, sometimes tension and intensity could be read in their gazes. Nonetheless Vladimir seemed to like what he was hearing…

In the second half of the concert the organisers asked not to applaud after each sequence as they were going to record the concert. It was so hard to resist! At the end, the audience did not want to let the performers, soloists and of course Vladimir Romanov go for a long time. We were especially grateful to the concert organisers for an opportunity to meet the musicians and Vladimir Romanov himself at the after concert reception.

It is always a pleasure to see our local Russian musicians being involved in such a grand international music project. We were lucky to hear and later have a conversation with Dmitry Rusakov (choir) and Andrei Uspensky (orchestra). The night of surprises continued when we were

able to have a conversation with Elena Konson, Vladimir’s wife, who happily shared her impressions of the concert and talked to us about her husband’s career and creations.

Listening to their life stories we appreciate the importance of personal and professional contacts. After all, how did it occur to Vladimir to come to perform in New Zealand all the way from Europe!? As we later found out it was Gina who invited Vladimir to Auckland. She met him more than ten years ago when touring Germany. Together they had a number of very successful concerts in Europe. While contemplating the idea of Stabat Mater, Vladimir was imagining Gina singing the soprano part, so he was destined to come to New Zealand sooner or later.

We are grateful to Vladimir, the musicians and the concert organisers for such an indulgent treat.

Rimma Shkrabina and Olga Tarasenko

Translated by Elena Naumova

Photo by Dasha Barbashina