At 15, violinist Eugene Ugorski has performed with over 65 orchestras, most recently in Moscow, where he played a Tchaikovsky concerto. "It was a very important concert," says Ugorski, because it fell on May 9, or Victory Day -- the Russian celebration of the end of World War II. "I was invited by Valery Gergiev." Gergiev is a conductor who has worked with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Opera House, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Rotterdam Philharmonic. Born in Russia, Ugorski came to the States in 1995 at the age of five. He played a Vivaldi concerto with the San Diego Chamber Orchestra when he was eight years old.
Eugene is the only child of pianist Luba Ugorski and flutist Valeri Ugorski. Valeri teaches flute privately, is a soloist for San Diego's Allegro Group, and has performed as a member of a Leningrad soloists group and the Baja California Symphony Orchestra Project in Mexico. Luba took up music at the age of four. Her career has taken her to Germany, Italy, and the former Czechoslovakia. Luba teaches piano privately and at Bishop's School in La Jolla. "She performs once in a while," says Valeri of his wife, "usually with Eugene and me."
Eugene Ugorski was introduced to his teacher, Vesna Gruppman, when he was six. Gruppman has performed with the San Diego Chamber Orchestra, London's Beethoven Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Edmonton Symphony.
Shortly after Ugorski began his lessons in San Diego, Gruppman moved to Salt Lake City, Utah. For six years Ugorski flew from San Diego to Salt Lake City twice a month for his music lessons. These lessons were at least six hours long -- the same amount of time Ugorski practices his violin each day. Now that Gruppman lives in Rotterdam, Holland, these lessons are conducted by way of video conferencing on computer.
After his first public appearance playing Vivaldi, Ugorski exercised with the music of "various composers that help me develop my technical virtuosity." When he was 11 years old he played a Paganini concerto. "Because Paganini was a great violinist himself, he wrote very difficult pieces for the violin," says Valeri. "This piece is very difficult for adults, and it is very rare that someone 10 or 11 could play the concerto."
Ugorski is working on a Shostakovich concerto that he plans to play with the Utah Symphony in February. For his performance with his parents on June 9 he will play shorter, recognizable pieces, including a selection from Schindler's List.
Ugorski insists he has no favorite composers or pieces; he says he tends to favor whatever it is he is working on. The Shostakovich concerto qualifies as a current favorite.
What does Ugorski think about when he's playing the violin? "I think about what the composer would like me to do in this type of music based on what he wrote in the music as dynamics." Dynamics are notations composers add to indicate which passages are meant to be played loud or soft. "I think about everything my teachers told me and what I'd like to do in the music myself."
Ugorski attends La Jolla Country Day School. "Some people actually said that by coming to this school, I could have been like a nerd. But I play basketball, and everything's cool," says Ugorski. When asked to describe himself, Ugorski uses adjectives like "funny" and "cool" and makes it clear that he's "very 'not different.'"
Ugorski hopes to become a concert violinist and "to continue doing what I'm doing now." Like most 15-year-olds, he is looking forward to getting his driver's license. -- Barbarella
Concert: Eugene Ugorski
Thursday, June 9
First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego
4190 Front Street
Cost: $18; $15 student/group
Info: 619-544-1000 or www.sandiegorep.com