“…a relaxed and resourceful technique…her playing was admirably honest and clear-textured…puts her in select circle”
The New York Times
“…Irena Portenko is a prodigious pianist…her music was digitally challenging, and she met the challenge with error-free confidence…”
NYC Bargemusic “Now and then series” Concertonet.com
“…Irena Portenko (piano) shaped Bach moving as a terpsichorean, true and perfect, as one rarely could listen to it.”
“A superior talent”
– Audophile Audition
“Natural, effortless touch”
“A distinctive voice”
“…easy fluidity of touch and tone”
Music & Vision (London, UK)
“…sonorous and powerful [sound]”
New York Concert Review
“Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto interpretation with brilliance and feeling, resonance and contrast.”
The Leonding Journal (Austria)
Ukrainian-born Irena Portenko first displayed love and talent for the piano at age three and by age eight, debuted as soloist with the Ukrainian National Orchestra, performing Haydn’s Concerto in D Major. Since then, Ms. Portenko’s spectacular and multifaceted career has flourished in the distinguished array of concerto performances, with the most recent one, in December 2017, as she has performed two Concerti by R. Schumann and by J. Brahms (No 2) in one evening, accompanied by National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. Her newest recording, featuring music by Michigan composers has been dedicated to the University of Michigan’s 200th anniversary in 2017. Ever since Portenko has retained a motto “Be free to teach, to serve, to probe the unknown”* that became an inspiration and essence of her further professional journey, consisting of numerous recitals, festival appearances and recognitions at international competition, that has garnered impressive accolades from both audiences and critics throughout Europe and North America, granting her a career of international status.
In 2009, upon an invitation from Artists International, Ms. Portenko’s gave a critically acclaimed debut at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall featuring a performance of Frédéric Chopin’s complete 24 Études, prompting Anthony Tommasini, reporting for the New York Times, to write: “Ms. Portenko pulled off a feat that puts her in a select company.”
As a recording artist, Ms. Portenko has recently released her fourth CD “Versus” with Prokofiev Second and Tchaikovsky First Concerti.
Grego Applegate of classicalmodernmusicblogspot.com writes: “It is a recording of the remarkable pianist Irena Portenko and the Ukrainian National Symphony Orchestra under Volodymyr Sirenko in Versus, Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 2, Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 (BGR 417)…and I am happy to say that this version is graced by the absolute fire and tenderness of Irena Portenko’s performance, something that makes the music breathe and live for us as well as it ever has. “Suffice to say that Portenko is an interpretive giant..it is a remarkable performance, probably the best I have heard!”
Canadian online music magazine noted, that Versus is a “very impressive recording and Portenko is satisfyingly at home with this music, meeting its technical and interpretive challenges with confidence and style…creating the impression of familiar music never heard before”.
Portenko’s earlier recording of Chopin’s Études on the Blue Griffin Label, which was also met with significant critical praise from such outlets as Fanfare Magazine, for which Dave Seaman wrote: “[I] listened to Portenko’s CD four times before writing this review, and each time found new subtleties to enjoy… it is a product of a distinctive voice and a fine temperament. Her interpretation develops the cycle’s continuity with considerable success.” London’s Music & Vision Daily echoed the approval, commending Ms. Portenko’s “enviable ease… fluidity of touch and tone…” (Robert Anderson). The CD continues to receive airplay nationwide in the United States, and was the August 2010 “Choice CD” on WCLV, praised by the radio’s on-air personality Bill O’Connell as an “enormous undertaking, a pianistic high-wire act-to say the least!”
Her passion for collaborating with and performing the music of contemporary composers has led her to interpretations of numerous works by living American, Ukrainian, Chinese and German composers. The Tryptich “Venetian Blinds” for solo piano by Grammy Award winner Michael Daugherty (2003) was recognized by Mark Stryker of the Detroit Free Press as “…the most powerful work on the program…” Mr. Stryker went on to say, “Pianist Irena Portenko’s exciting reading unlocked the music’s technical challenges”.
Frequenting the stage often, Irena Portenko has appeared as a soloist with orchestras and has performed under the batons of Volodymyr Kozhuhar (Ukraine), Kenneth Kiesler (USA), Rossen Milanov (BULGARIA-USA), Volodymyr Sirenko (UKRAINE), Uwe Harrer (AUSTRIA), Allin Vlasenko (UKRAINE), and Dai Uk Lee (REPUBLIC OF KOREA). In addition to her recital and solo work, Ms. Portenko is an avid chamber musician, and has appeared in that capacity with distinguished artists at the festivals and recitals around the world.
In 2018, Ms Portenko will lead 5th International Summer Music Festival in Austria, “Music in the Alps”, featuring an extensive solo and chamber music training session, masterclasses and performances by renowned artists, and engaging activities and explorations, shared by the students, faculty and guests from around the world (www.musicinthealps.com).
Graduating with BM from National Ukrainian Academy of Music (1995), with Master’s and Doctorate from the University of Michigan (1998, 2004, respectively), Irena Portenko has become a passionate educator and mentor to the students of various ages, ethnical and educational backgrounds. She teaches at the Westchester Conservatory of Music (White Plains, NY) and, she takes a pride of her piano studio in Westchester, NY.
While bringing to the international stage the richness of her Eastern-European cultural heritage and her vibrant American educational and professional experience, as a devoted teacher she has inspired her students to appear in successful performances at venues worldwide.