In Greaves Concert Hall on Sunday night, four hands played selections by Gershwin, Barber and others on the grand Steinway piano. Ukraine born Anna and Dmitri Shelest were the NKU graduates and husband and wife team behind this performance.
“The main reason we are here and the main reason we were invited is because Dr. Gail Wells is retiring as Provost,” said Dmitri Shelest.
Anna and Dmitri were 16 years old when they started working with Wells. They received scholarships to attend NKU from Ukraine.
Originally they were invited to record their thoughts on a video for her, but Charles Wells, Gail Well’s husband and former teacher in the department of theater and dance as well as music department, contacted the two through Facebook and said it would mean a lot if they could visit. This performance was arranged shortly after.
Charles Wells remembers driving Dmitri to his first international competition in the United States in 2002, which he won.
“I came to pick him up and he was asleep because he had practiced all night and had fallen asleep under the piano on the floor,” said Charles Wells.
This dedication and practice has long been a part of Anna and Dmitri’s work ethic.
Gail Wells recalls they used to practice six or eight hours a day when they were students.
“What was so great about NKU is that the practice rooms never closed. I think the building it closes after certain hours,” said Anna Shelest. “If you are inside you can pretty much practice all night and sometimes we will do that. We had a lot of freedom to practice as much as we could”
The performance Sunday lasted about an hour, which is shorter than they usually play.
“Normally they play longer concerts, but we wanted this to be more casual so they chose shorter selections,” said Gail Wells.
The most well known piece they played being George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Anna and Dmitri currently live in New York City and have a friend who lives in the house where Gershwin used to live. They had the arrangement for this piece for a recital they did in that home.
The couple also performed selections from the Souvenirs by Samuel Barber and Bedřich Smetana: Má Vlast Moldau, which they arranged for piano from the orchestral version themselves.
“It’s a work in progress and I think at some point it will sound really good,” joked Dmitri Shelest about Moldau.
Anna and Dmitri also played other Gershwin compositions solo.
They have been playing four hand piano for about four years a regular basis said Dmitri Shelest. Prior they would occasionally play selections together, but it wasn’t with any regularity.
“At first it was difficult cause as a soloist you have the whole space to yourself,” said Dmitri Shelest.
He got used to sitting at the piano a certain way and it was a difficult adjustment to make.
“It just takes adjustment and you really need to spend a lot of time playing together,” said Anna Shelest. “It’s not enough to learn your individual parts.”
Anna and Dmitri have upcoming performances at Xavier University on March 2 and at Carnegie Hall in New York on April 21. For your information you can visit www.annashelest.com.