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

B.C. candidate moves from hospice care to council race

He beat terminal cancer twice and entered hospice when he decided to run for council.

Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal MP acclaimed for his party’s nomination

Stephen Fuhr runs unopposed as the party’s standard-bearer for the next federal election

Kelowna Fire Department to handle Vernon, OKIB dispatch

Five-year contract will net Kelowna more than $200,000 says fire chief

Kelowna overdoses prevented with supervised consumption site

Supervised Consumption Services helping people avoid overdose and receive health services

B.C. candidate moves from hospice care to council race

He beat terminal cancer twice and entered hospice when he decided to run for council.

Ministry of Agriculture commits $300,000 to help B.C. farmers obtain land

B.C. Land Matching Program supports access to affordable farmland for young farmers

Canadian air force short 275 pilots

Attrition outpaces recruitment and training claims Air Force

Teacher suspended after physically shushing, saying ‘shut up’ to student

Grade 5 student reported feeling ‘confused and a little scared’

High spirits after first week of classes at Shuswap’s outdoor school

South Canoe School is taking student learning into the great outdoors

A B.C. society helps to reforest Crown land after wildfires

Forest Enhancement Society of BC focuses on wildfire mitigation and the reforestation

B.C. marijuana workers may face U.S. border scrutiny

Cannabis still illegal federally south of the border

Symphony giants launch 59th Okanagan Symphony Orchestra season

Concerts in Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon Sept. 21-23

Over 60 cats and kittens surrendered to the South Okanagan-Similkameen SPCA

The surrender is part of an ongoing animal cruelty investigation with BC SPCA Special Constable

Most Read