Seriously, Budginas is back

Gary Linehan, The Union Democrat

Combine Bach and Brubeck, add a 21stcentury approach, include a vast range of musical styles, flavor with a sense of humor, and you have crossover artist Rudolf Budginas with his mix of virtuosity, wit and charisma.

The program - the final entry in the 2013-14 St. James Concert Series - will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Country Cowboy Church at 14888 Peaceful Valley Road in East Sonora.

Hailed by the press as "a young, hip Victor Borge-like entertainer," the Lithuanian-born pianist has delighted audiences in Paris, Tokyo, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, Budapest, Salzburg, Cologne, Copenhagen, Riga, Moscow and Sonora two years ago.

Budginas will open his program with a Chopin impromptu followed by a Bach fugue. Crossover numbers will include Vivaldi's "Winter," "Black Swan" from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" ballet, "Mad Rush" by Phillip Glass, Rodriguez's "Spain," Brubeck's "Take Five" and Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven."

The program will close with a Bach toccata.

Budginas was born into a family of musicians, and began his studies when he was 4, making his debut at the age of 9 with the Lithuanian National Symphony.

During and after his studies in Europe, he rose to international prominence performing solo concerts throughout the world. Among his numerous awards are first prize in the Los Angeles Liszt Piano Competition, second prize in the Vitols International Piano Competition, and the prestigious Yamaha of Europe Award.

Transplanted to California after accepting a full scholarship at the University of Southern California to complete his doctorate in music, Budginas settled in, took up surfing and developed a passion for expanding the accessibility of classical music to American audiences.

"I felt that after my strictly classical recitals, I was questioning if I had more to offer to my audiences," he said. "It was clear that they loved classical music but I felt there was more I wanted to do. I want to present more variety of musical styles. I want to keep my audience always guessing what will come next. I like to relax the atmosphere of the concert.

"The concert is a very formal thing," he said. "I like people in general. I like to talk to them. And when you have a friendly atmosphere, when you explain what they're going to hear, it's much better, it's much easier."

Budginas resides in Santa Rosa and, for the past two years, has served as a professor of music at Santa Rosa Junior College, where he teaches piano and digital audio.

Prior to settling in Santa Rosa, he served on the music faculty at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo and as conductor of the Chamber Orchestra at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $5 for students under 18, available at Mountain Bookshop and Sonora Music, by telephone at 536-0825 and at the door.

The St. James Concert Series will return on Nov. 16 with the local Composers Corner.

For more information about Sunday's Budginas concert or about the St. James Concert Series, visit www.sjconcertseries. org.

The Union Democrat
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