When I heard Olena and Sergiy Komirenko in St. Marys' Smedes Parlor on January 30, it had been a couple of years since I last heard them two buildings over on the same campus in Pittman Auditorium. Sergiy turned 16 last year and Olena 14. They have matured and improved appropriately in the intervening time.
The first half of the program consisted mostly of single movements from works featuring the violin. Olena opened alone with the Adagio from Bach's Sonata No. 1 in g minor. She followed with the Rondo from Lalo's "Symphonie espagnole" with Sergiy playing the piano reduction of the orchestral score. Next was the Presto agitato from Brahms' Sonata, Op. 108, and finally Sarasate's "Gypsy Air" Op. 1, No. 20, both with Sergiy at the piano. While he used a score, Olena played all but the Brahms from memory. All the works were competently played, but Olena, who took a huge risk opening with such an exposed solo, seemed to have a soft spot and a particular flair for the more exotic Lalo and Sarasate. Sergiy seems to have improved greatly in paying attention to his sister and following her lead, and communication was on the whole excellent between them.
After intermission, Sergiy soloed entirely from memory with Prokofiev's Sonata No. 3, Op. 28, Rachmaninov's Etude tableau, Op. 39, No. 5, and the original version of the latter's Sonata No. 2, Op. 36. He had an excellent control of the material in all of these pieces and of the dynamics in the two sonatas, but the Etude tableau was simply too loud for the hall. There were a whale of a lot of notes for such a young mind and 10 not-yet-adult fingers. He acquitted himself more than well.
This is difficult fare for artists who are twice or three times their ages, but their performances stood up well. They now do more than just play the notes with the incredible ease that they have always displayed. If you close your eyes, you can easily forget that they are so young, even if we can no longer technically refer to them as child prodigies. They are now prodigious adolescents, and will presumably continue in the coming years to mature in their understanding and interpretation of the music as they already demonstrably have.
One area that has yet to mature to an equal degree, however, is their acceptance of the audience's response to their performances. It is still wooden and rigid and does not match their increased grace and poise in the performance itself. They need to learn to be more gracious in acknowledging the pleasure they have given instead of seemingly hurriedly brushing it off. If they are focusing on the imperfections of their executions, they need to get off that wavelength. They are unlikely ever to attain perfection, because all of us humans know there is always room for improvement, or for a different take on things, and there will also always be someone else to find a fault somewhere or say someone else played it better. That's the nature of taste. Self-flagellation went out of style at the end of the Middle Ages!