The following article written by Leanne Heaton was published in the Butler Eagle on February 10, 2014.
Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini by Sergei Rachmaninoff as performed by pianist Igor Lipinski was truly the star of the Celestial Fantasy concert of the Butler County Symphony Orchestra on Saturday night at the Butler Intermediate High School.
Rachmaninoff was a brilliant composer and pianist who was notorious for writing extremely difficult piano concerti as exemplified in the 1996 film “Shine,” which suggested that the strain of a performance of the “Rach 3” triggered the mental breakdown of an aspiring Australian pianist. Fortunately, Lipinski suffered no dire consequences from his masterful playing of the 24 variations. The nine-note theme was introduced by the trumpets and accented by the piano at the beginning of the first variation. Each subsequent variation was distinctly different in style and allowed Lipinski to showcase his dazzling versatility. He shifted minute by minute from crisp to lyrical to melancholy to grandiose with aplomb. One moment he played with frantic speed, lapsed into a languid theme, then a brisk march or a sweeping waltz and ended with a grandiose final movement that ended with a sudden sweet, almost humorous, pair of quiet notes. Variation 18 brought sighs of pleasure to the audience as they recognized the romantic theme that was used in the film “Somewhere in Time”.
As an encore, Lipinski offered Chopin’s “Nocturne in C Sharp” which was a favorite of Rachmaninoff. His control and interpretation were exquisite.