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The Odesa Boys Connect


The historic Congregation Kehillath Israel played host to the mesmerizing Odesa Boys: acclaimed clarinetist Julian Milkis and virtuosic pianist Maxim Lubarsky. The Ballets Russes Arts Initiative sponsored event ranged widely across a diverse repertoire.

Milkis, a student of the legendary Benny Goodman, took the stage last Thursday with a nod to the Baroque. His virtuosic rendition of Handel’s Dignare o Domine satisfied aside from an out-of-tune lower register.

The evening quickly regained momentum with Yuri Povolotsky’s “Velvet Foxtrot,” a homage to Sydney Bechet. Povolotsky, an Odessa native living in Israel, infused it a unique blend of jazz elements.

The collaboration between the composer Alexander Rodin and Milkis impressed us, as Rodin, who resides in Kiev, showcased his Participium; it reminds of the slow movement from Rachmaninov’s first piano concerto but with a softer affect, seamlessly melding classical and contemporary languages. Milkis brought out the nuance embedded in Rodin’s creation, creating a poignant musical narrative.

The journey through different musical landscapes continued with Lubarsky’s solo piano take on Michel Legrand’s “Windmills of Your Mind.” His delicate touch and emotive phrasing brought out the nostalgic beauty.

Milkis began the second half with a soul-stirring account of Rachmaninov’s much-loved Vocalise. He didn’t stint on emotional engagement and elicited a profound response.

Gears shifted with Giya Kancheli’s hauntingly beautiful “Ninna Nanna (Lullaby) per Anna,” though plenty of warmth and meaning still came across.

Ilya Dimov’s “Blues for Clarinet and Piano” added a layer of diversity through musical camaraderie and skillful improvisation between Milkis and Lubarsky. Their infectious energy also came across as a playful dialog in Dick Hyman’s “Clarinata.”

Arvo Pärt’s “Spiegel im Spiegel,” a minimalist masterpiece, induced the duo to create a deeply meditative atmosphere.

Ennio Morricone’s “Cinema Paradiso,” offered another awe-inspiring genre shift.

The Odesa Boys embodied the power of music to connect cultures.

With a biochemistry PhD and a career in the life sciences industry, Stephanie Oestreich also performs as a violinist and conducts workshops with orchestras demonstrating the similarities between teams and leadership in music and management.

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