Last evening, Joyce Yang played the piano at a recital sponsored by the Chopin Society of Atlanta, but more of that later.
The recital’s venue was the Roswell Cultural Arts Center (I assume that the Roswell Noncultural Arts Center is around the corner). This facility, located in of all places, Roswell, GA, is shares the campus of the Roswell City Hall. I have been looking for some information on the cost of constructing the Center, but a quick Google lead me nowhere. The facility looks like it was designed and built by the lowest bidder. Unimaginative and plain to the nth degree is the best I can say for the facility. It looks like a high school auditorium. That aside, I am not sure why our tax dollars should be footing the bill for this hall anymore than for the numerous sports stadia located across the country. Atlanta has many performing arts venues located all over the city and its suburbs. The problem is that there are more venues than there are performances in this city of 6 million. Its culture may be wide, but it certainly isn’t deep.
Back to the recital. Ms. Yang (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joyce_Yang) is a young pianist who won the silver medal as the 2005 Van Cliburn International Piano competition. The program began with a work titled “Gargoyles” by David Lieberman. I could find scant information about Mr. Lieberman on the web so I doubt that his has yet become a “big name” in music circles. Judging by Gargoyles, that may take a long time. The most memorable part of the piece was the very beginning when I was attempting to silence my cell phone. It rang loudly once at about the second note of the introduction. Oooops.
The second piece was “Estampes” by Claude Debussy who the program says was born in 1962 and died in 1918. He must have been the inspiration for “Benjamin Button.” This piece was influenced by American jazz and Ms. Yang became very animated during these sections. I like Debussy’s orchestral music, but his piano music- not so much.
The third piece was Chopin’s Andante spinato and Grande Polonaise. It never ceases to intrigue me about how Chopin so fully understood the piano and was able to use that understanding to make such romantic and lush music.
Following the intermission, Ms. Yang treated the audience to some pieces by Scarlatti, which had not been part of the program. I believe that these pieces were originally written for the harpsichord. Being that it is one of my least favorite instruments, I am happy that she played the piano versions.
A Chopin Nocturne and Ballade followed. I am a fan of the nocturnes- they are beautiful and full of romance. Ms. Yang performed them with skill. The recital ended with Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6.” I know this piece mostly in its orchestral version. It is bombastic and big music and it is always a crowd pleaser. There was a standing ovation for Ms. Yang, and she mostly deserved it.
Now, for some complaining. The recital began at 7:00 pm. I wondered why such an early hour until I entered the hall. It was full of children who were dragged by their parents to get some culture. A few sitting close to me were in constant movement during the first half of the program- fortunately they left at intermission. There were two young women sitting behind me who were complaining-during the performance- to each other about the kids being so noisy. One even went so far as to imitate the sound of a creaking seat that had a wiggly child in it. Again this was during the performance! I had to listen to both the kid and the two women. Bummer.
The audience was full of people who spoke Polish. I had the good fortune, however, to sit behind a beautiful Russian woman who was dressed in a black slip-like dress. I usually don’t like fragrances, but she had on a delicate coconut and fruit concoction that only added to Chopin’s romantic music.