Chin Kim and Younji Lee
On Friday February 8th, 2019, violinist Chin Kim performed at the Shoemaker Salon on Central Park West.
My anticipation of this event grew when I learned that Ms. Park was playing a 1799 Nicolas Lupot violin.
The first movement contains lively dialog between violin and piano. Ms. Park and Mr. Liccardo maintained an apparently effortless coordination, allowing the Molto Allegro to flow naturally across the movement’s choppy phrasing.
In the Adagio, Ms. Park’s violin rose gracefully (sic) over the accompaniment, first as a slow dance and then to sing. In her hands this violin shone in the higher registers.
Overall, Mozart’s Sonata No. 33 was a well-balanced collaboration between two musicians who clearly loved what they were doing.
This warm, entertaining work was at times expressively lyrical. At other times it was technically demanding. In fact, the Sonata was a showpiece for both musicians.
In that regard, there were moments when Joseph’s piano sounded as sweet as Grace’s exotic violin. And I enjoyed Ms. Park’s vibrant pizzicato immensely.
Neither musician wasted energy on superfluous showmanship. But I had to chuckle when Brahms got the violinist dancing around (apparently on bare feet).
Souvenir is a wonderfully Russian work and quintessential Tchaikovsky.
There are pounding rhythms reminiscent of the 3rd movement of the 6th Symphony, and soaring melodies. The performers were equally at ease with both.
And again, the collaboration between pianist and violinist was perfect.
This work is Stravinsky’s derivation (with violinist Samuel Dushkin) from his own orchestral ballet “The Fairy’s Kiss”, which in turn was based on songs by Tchaikovsky.
That said, Divertimento is very much Stravinsky’s own unique work, with manic dance rhythms and echoes of his other compositions.
Notwithstanding that they had already been playing for an hour, Mr. Liccardo and Ms. Park engaged Stravinsky with vigor and enthusiasm. The result was a highly enjoyable and often compelling performance.
Some refer to Lupot as the “French Stradivarius”. I didn’t know what to expect of such a unique instrument as his 1799 violin from Paris, but I noticed a particular sweetness in the upper middle register.
Later I asked Ms. Park what it is like for her to play the Lupot. She responded that the instrument is in perfect condition, very responsive to the performer, and crystal clear especially at the top end.
“It sparkles differently than a Strad”, she said. “I love it.”
On August 10th, 2018 Robin Shoemaker once again hosted pianist Han Chen at his Central Park West salon.
Mr. Chen’s program consisted of his repertoire for an upcoming competition in Calgary, Canada.
Han Chen thanked Robin and guests for the opportunity to play these works before a live audience. He explained that this is an essential part of how a pianist prepares.
From the semi-religious grandeur of the opening chords to the manic gallop of the last movement, Han Chen played Schubert’s Sonata with a driven energy that captivated his listeners. At times the rhythm of the piano was reflected in audience motion, as if people were feeling an urge to get up and dance.
On a sticky New York evening the keyboard can get slippery. A couple of times Mr. Chen had to dry his fingertips. He did this in the blink of an eye, with an arm gesture that looked like pianistic panache. If I had not been seated up front, I would have perceived it as Lang Lang style swagger.
Chen immersed himself in this contemporary work with conviction. He was fun to watch because his style is very expressive, but I did not understand Concert Paraphrase on Powder Her Face. Its erratic rhythms and pauses, drifting harmonies and apparent lack of melody left me feeling confused.
I reached out to Mr. Chen after the recital for insight. He explained that the work arose from an Adès opera, and talked about the appeal of the technical challenges of the work.
Under Han Chen’s hands, this demanding work was entertaining and impressive. You can watch him perform it at the Rubenstein Competition (2017) on YouTube at CHEN Han | F. Liszt – Réminiscences of Don Juan, S. 418, Stage I.
On this evening at Central Park West he rose to the challenge literally, rising from the piano bench to put more emphasis into key moments. At one point he even seemed to snarl at the piano.
I was surprised that Mr. Chen gave an encore after playing his full program with no break. This short and punchy work was a pleasant bonus, at times reminiscent of Mussorgsky.
I first saw Han Chen play at Robin’s home in 2017. It was a remarkable event that you can read about in my post Pianist Han Chen at Central Park West. Han went on to reach the semi-finals of the 2017 Van Cliburn Piano Competition.
It was our great pleasure to be Han’s audience for this dry run for the 2018 Honens Piano Competition. His selection showcases his enormous power and virtuosity, affording him moments of triumph reminiscent of Lang Lang. He will do well at this competition.
And yet, the moments I personally liked most came during the Schubert Sonata, where Han’s keyboard alternately bubbled with joi-de-vivre and gleamed with serenity. If it is for young pianists like Han Chen to challenge us with new music such as Thomas Adès, it is for those of us at the other end of life’s spectrum to encourage Mr. Chen to share more of his reflective side.