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Originally published Friday, October 12, 2012 at 5:32 AM

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Acclaimed Russian ensemble featured Sunday

Pianist Natalya Ageyeva joins the distinguished St. Petersburg ensemble, the Rimsky-Korsakov String Quartet, at Benaroya Hall in "Autumn Evenings" on Sunday.

Special to The Seattle Times

Concert preview

Rimsky-Korsakov String Quartet

"Autumn Evenings," presented by the Russian Chamber Music Foundation, 5 p.m. Sunday, Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall, 200 University Street, Seattle; $15-$27, 18 and under free (425-829-1345 or www.russianchambermusic.org).
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The Russian Chamber Music Foundation's artistic director, Natalya Ageyeva, came to music relatively late for a virtuoso pianist.

"I started playing at 13,"says the Moscow native, who received her doctorate in music from the University of Washington in 2005.

"But I realized it was what I wanted to do and started practicing really seriously."

That commitment not only became the driving passion for Ageyeva's career as a concert musician, but her tireless efforts over five years to grow the RCMF from an idea to a substantial arts organization with a unique mission to advance a national repertoire.

After a season-opening program at the Mercer Island Presbyterian Church last month, the RCMF will be hitting its stride Sunday) when Ageyeva, 39, joins the distinguished St. Petersburg ensemble, the Rimsky-Korsakov String Quartet, at Benaroya Hall.

Called "Autumn Evenings," the concert, to be held upstairs at the Nordstrom Recital Hall, includes composer Alexander Borodin's Quartet No. 1 in A Major; the "Horovod" by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (Borodin's colleague — along with Mily Balakirev, César Cui and Modest Mussorgsky — in the 19th-century St. Petersburg composers' circle, "The Mighty Five"); and Dmitry Shostakovich's 1940 Piano Quintet in G Minor, op. 57.

The Rimsky-Korsakov String Quartet — with current players Michael Bondarev (violin), Ekaterina Belisova (violin), Alexei Popov (viola), and Anton Andreev (cello) — began in 1939. Their Seattle appearance is one of several dates along the West Coast.

The Russian Chamber Music Foundation's concerts started modestly, with the first "Autumn Evenings" in 2008. After receiving her master's degree at Moscow's Tchaikovsky Conservatory (which sent her around the former Soviet Union to perform in towns and compete in festivals), Ageyeva came to Seattle, where she studied, played with a trio and hatched the idea for a nonprofit that would champion Russian music by past masters and new composers.

Having built a strong support system for the RCMF, the group's new season, strong on piano, includes a presence on the Eastside (Eastside Piano Recital Series in Medina, Dec. 9, with guest Yelena Balabanova); the two-day, 5th Russian Piano Festival, a competition for young pianists followed by a gala performance of the winners (Nordstrom Recital Hall, Dec. 15-16); and the season-ending "Winter Nights" (Nordstrom Recital Hall, Feb. 17) with pianist Dmitry Grigortsevich.

One hallmark of RCMF shows is an introduction to a program's music to underscore connections between composers and pieces on the bill.

"When you come to our concerts, it's not just the music," says Ageyeva. "It's intimate, you find out things. I love inviting musicians and sharing what I can share."

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