t would be
difficult to come up with a better end to the Virtuoso Series season. Guest pianist
Jon Kimura Parker provided a splendid performance
to complete the talent-packed concert season. His
incredible showmanship, coupled with a fine-tuned
attention to detail, are indelible stamps upon his
already illustrious career as a concert pianist.
The repertoire ranged from the crafty classicism
of Mozart to the austere ostentatiousness of Stravinsky.
Also included were some works of Schubert and a clever
arrangement of music from “The Wizard of Oz” by
Hirtz. The variety of music performed showed Parker’s
ability to switch between styles of music flawlessly.
It was almost as if each piece were played by a different
Parker would play a Mozart Fantasia without difficulty
or bravado. Yet after the applause, he would switch
gears into virtuosic drive to play Schubert or Stravinsky.
Parker took every pain necessary to churn out the
beautiful melodies of Mozart and Schubert without
bleeding them out with excessive use of pedal. Libby
Gardner Hall is a “live” hall where the
sound decay is rather long. Parker utilized this
rich sound by pedaling judiciously throughout all
of the pieces.
The concert as a whole was well-programmed, well-conceived
and well-played. Yet the concert should have ended
after the brilliant performance of Stravinsky’s “Rite
of Spring” (“Le sacre du printemps”).
Of course, “Rite of Spring” is a hot
topic as of late in the Salt Lake City arts scene.
Ballet West is performing this monumental work this
weekend for the first time in years. “Rite
of Spring” went into the annals of music history
as one of the most controversial ballets of all time.
During its Paris premiere in 1913, riots ensued inside
and outside the theatre. In fact, the sound of the
screaming and fighting audience made it difficult
for Stravinsky to conduct the pit orchestra.
Stravinsky escaped unscathed despite many threats,
obviously since the premiere, “Rite of Spring” became
one of the defining orchestral works of the early
20th century, if not the whole century. Stravinsky
himself composed the work from a two-piano, four-hand
arrangement. This arrangement is often used in recitals
today. There were many attempts made to transcribe
the orchestral giant for a solo piano. Attempts they
were, but failed attempts nonetheless.
Failed attempts, that is, until the Canadian Parker
recently transcribed and performed one of the most
excellent renditions of “Rite of Spring” around.
It almost rivals Stravinsky’s own two-piano,
four-hand arrangement. Being familiar with the “Rite
of Spring” almost to a point where I can go
through the whole work in my sleep, I had several
expectations. Parker did not miss a beat, a theme,
a gesture, a mood or the general feeling of the masterwork.
It was breathtaking. Even in the sections of the
piece where the orchestration calls for a bass drum,
Parker did not simply leave that gesture out because
of the impossibility of the piano sounding like a
bass drum. Rather, Parker would hit a heavy cluster
in the low register of the piano. The piece required
an incredible amount of energy and endurance that
is often requisite for a large-scale piano concerto.
But, in the case of a concerto, the piano is still
just one instrument. Parker transformed the piano
into a full orchestra.
The subsequent pieces were clearly overshadowed by
the riotous “Rite.”
provided an astonishing climax and curtain call
to the 2003-2004 Virtuoso Series Season.