If you want to make your audience happy and receive a standing ovation (and if you are a concert pianist), let me suggest that you finish (or start) your program with Prokofiev’s Toccata, Op. 11. This is what Cha Park did at the Church of the Epiphany, and it sure did the trick. Pulsating, unstoppable rhythm, like when your leg starts tapping in overdrive and you can’t stop it. She did a marvelous job.
This followed three Chopin Etudes – each of which is quite familiar to me. She explained how Chopin had changed the concept of an etude. No longer was it to be just a “study” to improve your techniques. Now it was to be a musical piece in its own right, which just happened to benefit your playing as a naked etude would. The first etude (no. 3) she described as “very hard to play” – yes, that’s the way it looked. The second (no. 5) was written in G minor, and she said that there was only one white note in the entire piece. The third, sounding an awful lot like one of his waltzes, was no. 12.
Park started the concert with two pieces written for the left hand alone. I recognized neither of them. The first was by a Russian composer named Felix Blumenfeld, with whom I was totally unfamiliar. I can’t say that I cared for it – there was a lot of sound, and a lot of notes – in fact it didn’t sound like it was just one hand playing – more like piano for four hands at times. The second was by Scriabin, which I enjoyed more. What was interesting here is Park’s relating that Scriabin suffered from synesthesia (look it up) which had the effect of his seeing each musical tone as a different color, giving an additional element to his music – clearly something to think about.
I had heard Cha Park last year at Epiphany. Just as good then.