by Jeannette Fang
Naples, Chiesa di S. Anna dei Lombardi
July 25, 2014
Having each young artist's concert take place in a different venue is such a smart concept. Imaginations need to be fed from reality, and the opportunity to play in breath-taking vistas are unforgettable additions to the reservoir of inspiration that young pianists can cull from.
Whereas the beauty of Sorrento’s Parco dei Principi came from its dramatic vantage point over the sea, the magnificence of Naples’ Chiesa di S. Anna dei Lombardi lies in its manmade artistry and rich history. There are few things more meaningful than being in a place that has existed for centuries. The ornate vaulted frescoes of Giorgio Vasari, densely packed with action? The captivating wooden sculptures of Fra Giovanni de Verona? They’ve been watching since 1411. How often can you say that you’ve played under the original artwork of the Renaissance?
And its not just any art work. These were some strange and captivating creations that watched over the last Young Artist’s Series. Particularly terrifying were the Fra Giovanni figures, which came alive the more you looked at them. How did he arrest such motion? There was sweep to their rich robes, their arms raised in gestures of supplication, and each one had a different expression of worship on their faces. Slightly disturbing were their contorted bodies; torsos were thrust out, knees were bent and waists twisted. Were they dancing or writhing? Expressing ecstacy of worship or the suffering of judgement? The fact that the caught motion wa so realistic, with softness of cloth and reality of pose, yet the figures so clearly sculpted, was what made these inlays a little horrifying. Imprisoned emotion, forever.
It was interesting to pair these figures with the ephemeral nature of piano performance. Hyoung Lok Choi certainly thought about moments, and how to convey beauty at just the right times. His Chopin Ballade no.4 had some wonderfully treasured spots of pianissimo. He listened attentively to voicing, with a line that was delicately nuanced, and his right hand had the perfect balance of rhetorical timing around his left.
Evelyn Lee followed, with Haydn’s b minor sonata Hob. XVI:32. Her performance was intelligent and detailed; with specific attention to articulation, clear characterizations, and a beautiful tone. Her Schubert Improvisation in B-flat major, op.142 no.3, had the perfect sound, instantly capturing the atmosphere of comfort, and the first variation had a feeling of velvet.
Sweet faced Tony Siqi Yun was the next to play, with Chopin’s Nocturne in D-flat major op.27 no.2 and the Ballade no.1. Instantly lovable, Tony displayed a heart-warming maturity for his tender years, playing with touching sensitivity and an intensity rarely felt at only thirteen. He created a powerful drama, yet was always expressing, with singing octaves and beautifully cherished moments.
Chuhan Zhang ended the program with Scriabin’s 2nd sonata, which had a masterful palatte of sound and textures. A lovely and impressive pianist, Chuhan has no limit to what she can do, and you can see how every color she wanted was exactly the one she intended for. Her Scriabin had suppleness and grace, yet was dramatic and full of flair.
These young performers played with great committment and sincerity. Their work may not be still hanging in the air for all to hear for centuries, but there is a beauty in that transience; it is experienced with greater focus and attention because it is so preciously in the present. And to pair it with captured emotion of Fra Giovanni’s masterpieces is to revel in the infinitesimal kinds of beauty man can offer.