Calgary pianist Kevin Chen, aged 12, is set to rock the keys alongside the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra for Proidy! March 9 in Kelowna, March 10 in Penticton and March 11 in Vernon. (Photo submitted)

Concert Review: Okanagan Symphony rings in spring

Prodigy an apt title for OSO performance featuring 12-year-old pianist Kevin Chen

Anita Perry

Special to The Morning Star

The dictionary defines “prodigy” as: a young person endowed with exceptional abilities. Synonyms include: genius, virtuoso, wunderkind, wonder child, boy or girl wonder.

When the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra decided to title this past weekend’s concert, Prodigy, they nailed it. Wunderkind pianist Kevin Chen stole the show not only with his polished performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20, but also with his symphonic work entitled Loud Sense.

The evening opened with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 9 in C Major, written when the composer was 13 or 14 years old. It was an apt choice—to compare the work of the quintessential musical prodigy of the 18th century with the work of a 21st century prodigy. Mozart’s music was well written and formally sound with sensible and appropriate orchestration.

The first movement, Allegro, was effervescent with teasing humour; the second movement, Andante, was elegant and understated; the third movement, a Menuetto and Trio, was stately with perfectly executed string section trills; the fourth movement, Allegro molto, was a delightful and fast paced rondo. The OSO’s performance was polished, light and charming—the perfect concert opener.

Next, twelve year-old concert pianist Kevin Chen made his way on stage to play Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor. Now, a nine-foot Steinway is dwarfing to even full-grown adults—with Chen it was positively miniaturizing. And yet, what Chen lacked in physical size he made up for in a no-nonsense stage presence. As soon as he placed his hands upon the instrument, all thought of his youth vanished: Chen played with conviction, surety of memory and excellent coaching.

Listening to the performance with eyes closed, there was no tell-tale gaffe or drop in sound that would mark the performer as any but a professional. Scale passages sparkled, melodies soared and Chen more than merited his standing ovation at the end of the performance. His encore, La Campanella by Franz Liszt, was absolutely enthralling and brought the audience surging to its feet for a second ovation.

After intermission, the OSO performed Chen’s orchestral work, Loud Sense. The writing was texturally simple with layering of melodies. Chen didn’t shy away from dissonance or angularity and in this way displayed maturity in the composition. The orchestration showed intelligence and good taste and illustrated the composer’s delight in playing with tone colour. Of particular note was a lovely English Horn solo and his use of harp. From the program notes provided by Chen himself, the last portion of the work: “… is like the crazy thoughts and flashbacks that one who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder experiences.”

Kudos to maestra Rosemary Thomson and the OSO for programming his music—quite a win for such a young composer. This is definitely a young man who will make a big noise in the world.

The final number of the concert was Igor Stravinsky’s Suite from Pulcinella. Originally written as a ballet at the request of Russian choreographer Sergei Diaghilev, Stravinsky later arranged the music as a suite for orchestra. The work is based on the music of Italian Baroque composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi and the resulting eight movement suite is 18th century Italian music with a 20th century Russian accent. Maestra Thomson conducted with an excellent understanding of style and the resulting performance was honest and heartfelt. Kudos to the bassoonist Karmen Doucette for her dazzling playing in the Gavotta, and to Concert Mistress Rachel Kristenson for her sparkling solos throughout the work.

Congratulation to the OSO for a thoroughly charming and inspiring concert. Already looking forward to the next Masterworks offering: Triomphe!

Related: OSO presents the masterworks of a prodigy

Anita Perry is a concert reviewer living in the Okanagan. Perry’s review covers the Symphony’s Penticton performance.


@VernonNews
newstips@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Revelstoke Council continues support of chartered flights for 2019

Chartered flights between Revelstoke and Vancouver will again be offered come winter.… Continue reading

Falkland artist favours, fights for fish

Lottie Kozak does all kinds of art; one of her favourite subjects, fish, is dwindling

NDP executive steps down in North Okanagan Shuswap

in-house ‘spending scandal’ blamed for Saturday’s resignation decision

Vernon second-degree murder suspect found not criminally responsible

Angelo Gabriel Monfort’s matter will be put to the British Columbia Review Board

Penticton man dies in Lavington train incident

Sunday afternoon incident claims 25 year old

Homeless people living on ‘Surrey Strip’ move into modular housing

BC Housing says 160 homeless people are being moved into temporary Whalley suites from June 19 to 21

Heat wave could lead to record-breaking electricity use: BC Hydro

Monday was a hot one, and many turned to fans and air conditioners for relief from the heat

Eagle’s death causes power outage

Thousands of Salmon Arm residents were without power for about an hour on Monday night

Private schools continue to top Fraser Institute rankings

Think tank says its ratings are fair to all schools, public and private

Former Somali child refugee fights to stay in Canada

Former child refugee Abdoul Abdi’s judicial review set for today in Halifax

U.S. border separations ripple through midterm campaigns

Several Republicans to break from President Donald Trump amid boarder separation issues

AFN chief accused of being too close to Trudeau

Perry Bellegarde insists he is not that close to the Liberals as elections looms

Three injured after industrial explosion in Newfoundland

The roof of the warehouse was blown off in the explosion near St. John’s

Most Read