New release celebrates piano music from Latin America

Derek Kealii Polischuk and Sarkis Baltaian dedicate new album to an old friend.

Pianists Sarkis Baltaian and Derek Kealii Polischuk have recorded a compilation of pieces for two pianos based on Latin American themes and ideas by composers from Latin America and the United States. These pieces highlight the cultural impact and beauty of Latin American culture in the 20th and 21st centuries, and feature the colorful sounds of two grand pianos at full sail. Works include the “Tres Romances Argentinos” of Carlos Guastavino, “Idilio Mexicano” by Manuel Ponce, “Scenas Infantis” by Brazilian composer Octávio Pinto, “Danzón Cubano” by Aaron Copland, “Adios Nonino” by Argentine composer Astor Piazolla, and “Recuerdos” by William Bolcom.  

Dr. Polischuk is associate professor of piano and director of piano pedagogy at the Michigan State University College of Music. Originally from San Diego, Polischuk studied with Krzysztof Brzuza before attending the University of Southern California, where he received the Doctor of Music Arts degree in Piano Performance with distinction under the tutelage of Daniel Pollack.  

Dr. Baltaian has gained an international reputation as a concert pianist, chamber musician, recording artist and pedagogue. He has been praised by critics for his “beautiful tone and ability to project even the most delicate pianissimos” and compared to George Gershwin and Oscar Levant for his performance of Gershwin’s Concerto in F. Baltaian made his Carnegie Hall Debut in 1999 and has performed extensively both as recitalist and concerto soloist with major orchestras throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia.

While studying at USC, Sarkis and Derek were privileged to befriend Sin-Hsing Tsai, a Taiwanese pianist who lived most of her life in Argentina. Sin-Hsing was an expert on Latin American piano music and grew up playing this music. Sin-Hsing and Derek played much of this music in recitals across the United States starting in 2008. After several successful recitals, they had planned to record this program with the support of a grant from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, where she was teaching. Unfortunately, before they were able to record, Sin-Hsing passed away after a battle with cancer.  Sarkis and Derek have dedicated this recording to Sin-Hsing’s generous and enthusiastic musical legacy.  

Funded with generous support from the Humanities and Arts Research Program at Michigan State University. For information on purchasing this recording, visit the Blue Griffin web site.

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