Alona Vigovsky is 19, and she knows exactly what she wants to do with her life. She wants to play the piano.
"I never wanted to quit," she laughs. "That's the funniest thing. I know tons of people who quit for a few years and then started again. I never quit."
Vigovsky, who was born in Moscow and moved to Israel with her family when she was 6, currently studies piano at the Rubin Academy of Music and Dance. She has won a number of awards and scholarships and has distinguished herself in regional competitions in Europe and Israel. Four years ago, she played a series of Western New York concerts; in Buffalo, she performed with the Buffalo Chamber Orchestra under the direction of conductor Arie Lipsky.
She returns Tuesday to play a recital at the Jewish Community Center, 2640 North Forest Road in Getzville. On the program is Beethoven's "Waldstein" Sonata as well as several pieces by Chopin -- including the famous, languorous "Barcarolle" -- and a rarely heard Prelude and Fugue by Carl Czerny.
Vigovsky has never played scales. "I haven't had the time," she laughs. But she doesn't shrink from technical challenges.
"I really love the Czerny," she says in her charming accent. "No one knows it. That's the best part of it -- it's not familiar at all. It goes on for like 10 pages. There are a lot of technical things that are difficult. I'm working really hard on that."
Her youthful dreaminess emerges as she discusses Chopin. "I love Romantic music. I can express my feelings," she says. "With the Barcarolle, I close my eyes and I can imagine a boat. It makes me play better."
Talking with Vigovsky gives an interesting glimpse of a young, very talented pianist who faces, nevertheless, a tough road. It's clear she's feeling some pressure. Her parents made sacrifices to allow her to follow her dream. Looking around her in Israel, she sees a lot of other ambitious, up-and-coming pianists.
She participated in a master class led by Murray Perahia, and corresponds with the famous pianist, who gives her advice. This summer, she is facing the prospect of journeying to Italy for her first international competition. She admits that she's nervous. "A lot," she says.
"It's more nerve-racking than playing a recital," she adds. "I have to play like more than perfect so no one can say, 'I don't like that part.' I have to be very convincing so the judges won't find a reason to lower my scores. And also I'm competing with other pianists whom I don't know and I'm sure they're very good."
She points out, though, that while competitions can be cruel, they help musicians to grow.
"You're never as ready as you are before a competition," she says. "Before competition I practice tons of hours. No recital can make me be so ready as a competition. And that's a good thing," she adds, wisely. "Even if you don't win, you learn a lot."
For Michael Ethan Galganski, who teaches music at Niagara University, music isn't just something to be heard. It's something to be seen, too.
Galganski's new work, "Tonalitem I," lets the audience know the score in a colorful and creative way. It's visual as well as musical. The composer has come up with an innovative detailed spatial score, as he describes it, made up of enormous double-painted panels. The panels surround the audience to create, as he explains, "a unique cinematic experience in chamber music traditions."
Some notes on the panels are square, while others are triangular or shaped some other way. The color of the notes, too, comes into play. Blue is clarinet, according to Galganski's design. Violet is oboe, red is bassoon and green is flute. That makes for a dramatic experience for the audience. "The parts will be shooting out at you, so the performers are actors in a sense," Galganski says, laughing. "You'll feel that notes are flying at you."
"Tonalitem I" will be performed next Friday by the Buffalo Woodwind Quintet. Also on the program is "Manto III," for soprano and viola, by Giacinto Scelsi (1915-1982). "He's a newer composer, just becoming renowned now," Galganski says. "He's an interesting person -- independently wealthy, locked himself away and wrote this intensely beautiful music."
Two beautiful early songs by Arnold Schoenberg, written around the turn of the last century, will be performed by soprano Lisa Marie Surace and pianist Claudia Andres. Also on the program are Bach's Prelude and Allegro, BWV 998, played on guitar by Kenneth Meyer, and Bartok's "Contrasts III," performed by violinist Ansgarius Aylward, pianist Claudia Hoca and BPO principal clarinetist John Fullam.
The concert takes place at 8 p.m. next Friday in the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, 453 Porter Ave. Admission is free.
WHAT: Pianist Alona Vigovsky
When: 7:30 p. m. Tuesday
Where: Jewish Community Center, 2640 North Forest Road
Tickets: $8 -$10
Info: 688-4114, ext. 334