Before Saturday, 14-year-old Russian piano prodigy Daria Korotkova had never signed autographs for English-speaking people before.
But after her performance before a sold-out crowd in CSUâ€™s Griffin Concert Hall at the University Center for the Arts, the little girl with long, burnt mahogany hair got to do just this.
Sitting on stage after the performance in an ankle-length black dress, Korotkova says, speaking through her interpreter Vladimir (there are no direct quotes for this reason ), that she traveled more than 5,000 miles from Saint Petersburg, Russia to Fort Collins to fulfill her dream of performing in the United States.
Having first come to the states on Jan. 2, Korotkova, mature yet with a smile playing across her face, says she has spent her time practicing for her tour of the country and she took a small vacation to Estes Park.
She enjoyed her time in the self-described â€œniceâ€ and â€œbeautifulâ€ Fort Collins, saying that she likes the landscape of the mountains compared to the modern look of Moscow with its skyscrapers and the vintage, historical feel of St. Petersburg.
Korotkova was born and lived in Novocherkassk, Russia with her mother and grandmother where she began playing piano at the age of 3. Her mom taught her how to play before moving to Rost-on-Don, Russia.
When playing a piece, Korotkova says she threads her personality through the lines of a piece, while trying to reflect the feelings of the composer and portray the period and the style.
From a young age, Korotkova has been a fan of many classical composers. She enjoys playing Johann Sebastian Bachâ€™s works, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozartâ€™s concertos, Ludwig van Beethoven and works from the French Romantic composers, she says. In her heavy Russian accent, she looks at Vladimir and describes herself as being â€œwell roundedâ€ in her tastes.
But she laughs when asked what she does when she is not playing piano because when sheâ€™s not playing piano she is, â€œpracticing playing piano.â€
Beyond the realm of the piano, Korotkova says she likes to listen to music, specifically new music; watch other performers perform, look at art and paintings, collect rocks and she has taken up photography as a part-time hobby.
A pianistâ€™s performance
Saturday night the young musician played three separate piano pieces: Sergei Rachmaninovâ€™s â€œSix Moments Musicuax, Op. 16,â€ Frederic Chopinâ€™s â€œSonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35â€ and Alexander Scriabinâ€™s â€œFive Etudes, Op.8.â€ She followed her performance with an encore of Tchaikovskyâ€™s â€œLullabyâ€ arranged for piano by one of Dariaâ€™s favorites- Sergei Rachmininov.
Korotkova walks across the stage; head hung with her eyes staring at the ground in front of her. She pulls a white handkerchief from her left hand to dry the perspiration from her palms as she sits on the piano bench.
She doesnâ€™t hesitate, she doesnâ€™t take a quick deep breath â€“â€“ she starts playing immediately and the transition is seamless.
She looks natural as she plays.
Her left hand and right hand are in perfect harmony. At times, while playing a lead with her right hand, her left hand drops down to her side only to jump back up and rejoin the performance in another example of her musical power and beauty mixing smoothly with her talent.
Her forearms are perpendicular to the floor and she holds her wrists just high enough and loose enough over the piano to let her fingers drip into the 88 black and white piano keys.
Her playing style blends a fluidity in the notes like a musical stream with the passion and precision usually reserved for the older, more experienced and accomplished performers.
Between each work she takes only a short time to catch her breathe and again wipe her hands as she hangs her head low. And again, she jumps right into the next work without any hesitation or concern.
Each time she plays she looks comfortable like she is alone practicing in the privacy of her room.
Janet Landreth, coordinator of keyboard studies at CSU, spent two years raising money and working with people close to Korotkova in order to bring her to CSU.
â€œItâ€™s part of the internationalization of the university,â€ Landreth said. â€œHer performance tonight was wonderful, incredible.â€
Matt Wenger, a junior mechanical engineer, plays piano himself and was struck by how difficult the technicality of the pieces Daria was playing.
â€œIt was incredible,â€ said Wenger, â€œAmazing. This was an awesome opportunity for students to see world class talent for only $7.â€
Daria has two more concerts to play in Colorado before she goes back home to Russia.
Tonight, Daria is playing at the Evangelical Covenant Church at 4825 S. Lemay Av. On Friday, Jan. 29, Daria is playing at Wells Music 685 S. Broadway in Denver. Both performances are at 7 p.m.
Once back home in Russia, Daria is going right back to school to finish her trimester and prepare for future performances including a violin duet in February in Tallinn, Estonia and recitals at her school toward the end of the semester.
Staff writer Ryan Sheine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.