There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t run into Natalya Ageyeva on Mercer Island. Granted, since Russian Chamber Music Foundation of Seattle is a MICA partner we have many meetings, but aside from those, I can no longer count on my fingers the number of times we run into each other shopping at New Seasons.

Even if you don’t know Natalya you have more than likely seen her performances during the summer at Luther Burbank Park. She and I had a quick back and forth text followed by an impromptu ‘coffee talk’ regarding her top 5 classical music pieces. Here is the quick list.

1. J.S. Bach | Mass in B minor.
This one is very close to Natalya’s heart (though she says this about each composition below); a piece she has obsessed over from age 14. Natalya talks about Bach from two different points of view: intellectually and meditatively. She is struck by his harmony & compositional technique. Any musical novice can look at Bach’s manuscripts and remark on the sea of notes over multiple pages of staff paper; almost making one’s eyes blur. But, Bach’s Mass made a profound statement on her. She describes the B minor mass as “close to godliness in music that she knows”. That is quite the recommendation.

2. Antonin Dvorak | “Song of the Moon” from the opera Rusalka.
If you haven’t heard “Song of the Moon” here is a quick clip. It’s a haunting and beautiful melody that will make the most masculine of men weak in the knees. It makes sense why this is in Natalya’s top five. She does say that specifically, she prefers the rendition by opera star Anna Netrebko.

3. Ludwig van Beethoven | Piano Trio, Op. 97 “Archduke” 
Of course we come to expect at least one piece by Beethoven, but a piano trio? (what could Natalya be thinking, but I digress). Dedicated to Archduke Rudolph of Austria, this was one of fourteen compositions Beethoven dedicated to the Archduke. Natalya went on to explain the inspiration this piece bestows on her. Not the type of inspiration it has on her piano playing, but inspiration on her writing (not music), or house cleaning, or it just makes her feel better when she is down.

4. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky | 6th Symphony
Who doesn’t love Tchaikovsky? And Natalya is no different. But out of all the monumental works Tchaikovsky has composed why did she choose this piece? She told me she first heard his 6th Symphony as a teenager when it was performed in the Great Hall of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. It’s quite common for art to affect us emotionally and as such, it happened for Natalya with this Symphony. Throughout the music she found emotional parallels of misery, despair, and sadness. Indeed a depressing finding in art but these types of moments can lead to a sense of peace rather than further turmoil which is what Natalya found.

5. Sergei Rachmaninoff | 2nd Symphony
I was flabbergasted when Natalya said the 2nd Symphony by Rachmaninoff and not a piano concerto or some other piano piece. That is almost sacrilegious for any pianist. But, she merely said, “if you want to know who I am, then listen to Rach’s 2nd Symphony”. There you have it – get to know Rach’s 2nd Symphony and you will know the wonderful and dear person that MICA has come to befriend.

I highly recommend you looking further into Natalya and her organization Russian Chamber Music Foundation of Seattle. They produce memorable performances and she is an island treasure.

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