At the top of Pierce College, across from Lot 5, Shepard Stadium and the cross country course, the rustling sound quieted at the flick of a switch.
The almost immediate change from light to darkness drew all eyes toward the center of MUS 3400 Thursday, Nov. 13.
Sharp rays of focused light were aimed diagonally upward toward center stage, which revealed the reddish brown wood color of Ruslan Biryukov’s cello.Biryukov is an international award-winning cellist and founder of the Glendale Philharmonic.
Originally from Russia he was educated at the Tchaikovsky Moscow Conservatory and the USC Thornton School of Music.
The talented musician has performed on campus as a solo cellist, with a pianist in duets, and in a trio with a pianist and a clarinetist. He has also performed with a quartet of cellos.
Before he started each composition Biryukov explained something about the composer as well as a little history about the piece. In honor of Handel, he chose to collapse a duet into a cello composition.
“So today I will perform a piece by Handel called Passacaglia. Essentially it is a set of variations,” Biryukov said. “Originally it was composed for organ and then there was a transcription made for violin and cello. Today I will try to perform it on cello solo.”
Biryukov aggressively attacked the first note of the song. He then performed the entire piece with passionate precision.
The combination of harmonies and phrasing created such a full sound, that it was almost as if he was being accompanied by a violinist.
Isabel Murashko is a Pierce College English major that said she enjoyed the performance.
“I thought it was really impressive. Especially since he didn’t have music in front of him the entire time,” Murashko said. “[I was] just watching how fast his hand was moving, and he wasn’t even looking at his hand. He had his eyes closed.”
After the applause, Biryukov took a few moments to wipe his brow with a cloth, and then he easily segued into how Bach composed for churches in the cities, in which he lived.
“There was a period of 10 years, actually I think 12 years, when Bach moved to the city of Kothen, and that was a city that couldn’t afford to have an organ,” Biryukov said.
“So that’s the period when Bach composed his famous Brandenburg Concertos. Six suites for cello solo.”
His performance of Bach’s Suite No. 2 in D minor was delivered with as much passion as the first piece. He paused briefly as he transitioned through each movement.
Biryukov’s energy filled the room, which left some of the audience on the edge of their seats.
“You could ask him to play cello at anytime of the day and he’ll show up with his cello, and God knows what else and he will play for you,” Adjunct Music Instructor James Bergman said.
Biryukov closed the concert with a wonderful performance of the Suite for Solo Cello composed by Gaspar Cassado.
“He’s probably been here every year. He’s got a tremendous amount of music knowledge as to what he can do,” Bergman said. “And the students love him.”