Music Australia / Ukraine

Stalin’s Piano

Sonya Lifschitz

Presented in association with Melbourne Recital Centre


Clever and sensitive interplays of harmony, tone, timing shifts and to-the-millisecond accuracy.



The formidable pianist Maria Yudina was one of the most outspoken critics of Joseph Stalin’s tyranny, and for her efforts was banned, suspended and exiled. But when the dictator was found dead in his bedroom, it was Yudina who was spinning on his record player.

Pianist Sonya Lifschitz takes to the piano at the heart of this electrifying new work, conceived by Australian composer Robert Davidson with and for the Ukranian-born Lifschitz. Davidson’s bracing and brilliant compositions here are performed with virtuosic talent, but spiralling out from them is an audio-visual epic that charts a maelstrom of history, politics, art and rebellion.

Sewing together recorded audio, archival footage and live voice, a panoply of historical figures hover above the stage: Goebbels, Ai Wei Wei, Jackson Pollock, Whitlam, Judith Wright, Stalin and Yudina herself. From Bertolt Brecht facing the House of Un-American Activities Commission to JFK, Whitlam, Gillard and Trump, more than a century of political and creative thought is put to scrutiny, arranged and rearranged in provocative and insightful layers.

This powerful and affecting work is an accelerating ride through some of the biggest themes in contemporary history, and a chance to reimagine the world in which we find ourselves today.

PHOTO | Paul McMillan


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