Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2007 | 7:21 a.m.
If you wanted to hear piano virtuoso Ariel play in Las Vegas, you had to filter out sounds of gabby tourists, the clanging of slot machines, the clinking of cocktail glasses and the striking of forks against plates of smoked salmon at a Strip eatery.
Ariel had said his dream was to one day bring a major stage show to a Las Vegas resort. But for the past seven years as a Las Vegas resident, the Soviet-born musician who 28 years ago escaped his government's artistic oppression had to settle for the role of late-night, tuxedo-clad lounge pianist at the Bellagio's Petrossian bar and restaurant.
Reviewing one of his local performances, then-Sun entertainment columnist Joe Delaney wrote in 2000 that Ariel was "a vital presence, handsome, soft-spoken, musically articulate as well as innovative."
Arkady Efimovich "Ariel" Bogoslavsky, who was known for his classical renditions of pop tunes by a variety of artists including The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Billy Joel and Coolio, died Wednesday at Sunrise Hospital. He was 51.
Services will be today in Scottsdale, Ariz.
It wasn't always the lounge scene for Ariel, who performed more than 400 major concerts on three continents. A decade ago, for a series of big concerts called "Power of Five," he played one acoustic grand piano and, via computer, accompanied himself on four others. One such performance sold out the 3,200-seat Phoenix Symphony Hall in 1996.
The concerts became the inspiration for one of Ariel's five compact discs, "Power of Five, " which featured a Pink Floyd medley, Led Zepplin's "Stairway to Heaven," Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," the Beatles' "Let It Be," Billy Joel's "Piano Man" and Ariel's own "Vodka Boogie."
His other albums included "Timeless," featuring "My Heart Will Go On "; "Webber Translations," featuring songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals such as "Phantom of the Opera "; "Ariel's Beatles "; and "Planet Besstennaya."
Ariel once said his goal as a musician was "to make the piano sing and speak without words." The entertainment industry publication Variety once wrote: "Ariel's romantic approach wows the audience both in narration and at the keyboard."
Born Nov. 20, 1955, in Kishinev (today Chisinau), the capital of Moldova in the former Soviet Union, Ariel began playing the piano at age 5 and was sent to the National Children's School of Music. During his 17 years of classical training, he studied at several Soviet conservatories.
But plans to nurture him into a major classical performer went awry when, as a teenager, Ariel fell under the spell of Western pop and rock music, which at the time was banned by the Communist government. Nevertheless, Ariel purchased several rock 'n' roll albums in the black market and learned to play popular American hits with a classical twist.
With the help of his parents, who bribed government officials, Ariel escaped from the Soviet Union in 1979 to seek the freedom of expression he had been denied. He lived for a while in England and Israel before settling in Houston in 1981. In 1985 he took the stage name of Ariel, which in Hebrew means "Lion of God." A year later, he became a U.S. citizen.
Ariel also was known for his fund raising on behalf of Jewish and children's causes.
In recent years, Ariel released his version of Coolio's rap hit "Gangsta's Paradise" and negotiated unsuccessfully with major Las Vegas resorts to do a nightly stage extravaganza based on his Power of Five concert series.
Ariel is survived by his wife , Ludmila ; his parents , Rosa and Efim ; and his sister , Mara.