By Ted AYALA
For many musicians, a stellar partnership on stage doesn’t necessarily guarantee an equally stellar relationship off stage. One only has to recall the enmity between the Vienna Philharmonic and Gustav Mahler or, in more recent times, that of the Audubon Quartet, which was disbanded in 2011 following bitter legal entanglements between its members. But for cellist Tao Ni and pianist Harout Senekeremian, theirs is a musical partnership that was first firmly rooted in a deep friendship.
They’ve known each since 2006, when they met at the Corpus Christi Concerto Competition. But their recital of music by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Brahms and Shostakovich being held this Sunday, April 12 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Glendale will be their first full-length public collaboration.
“Every time we play together,” Senekeremian recalled, “it feels so natural, like I’m at home. It’s such a great feeling.”
Tao Ni’s previous position in the Cincinnati Symphony, not to mention each musician’s hectic schedules, precluded any opportunities to work together.
“There was no time for recitals,” Senekeremian said. “We’re making up for that now.”
Now a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Chinese-born Tao Ni has earned accolades through his participation in competitions as well as a number of collaborations including Itzhak Perlman, Ani Kavafian and Kim Kashkashian. He also counts among his admirers former President of the People’s Republic of China Jiang Zemin, who invited Ni to perform for him personally.
Senekeremian’s pianism, with its richness and heft of tone, has commanded much attention both locally and elsewhere. He has also been a noted interpreter of the music of George N. Gianopoulos, one of the brightest lights among the region’s composers. It was Gianopoulos who helped Senekeremian and Ni get in touch with St. Mark’s director of Music and Sacred Arts Ron Burnett.
“It’s a beautiful venue,” Senekeremian said. “[Burnett] has been very accommodating and enjoys having performances at the church.”
Sunday’s recital has a decidedly classical cast to it. Beethoven sits at the head of the recital and his shadow looms large over the works of Brahms and Shostakovich, both composers being profoundly influenced by him. Yet the program displays both composers’ capacity for renewal of the Beethovenian idiom, their ability to use traditional ideas in new and striking ways.
“New” and “striking” could very well describe Ni’s and Senekeremian’s concert, with both musicians goading the other into reaching for new heights.
“He has me playing at my 120%,” Senekeremian said. “Having a partner keeps you on point. And these scores now really feel new.”
Tao Ni’s and Harout Senekeremian’s cello and piano recital will take place this Sunday, April 12 at 8 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church of Glendale (1020 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale). A donation of $20 is suggested. For tickets and more information, go online to www.saintmarks.la