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.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Okanagan can learn from Washington’s wine industry growth

Winery owner cites importance of industry collaboration

Egg-stravaganza in Memorial Park

Kids Easter event planned for Summerland

Okanagan wineries shine in global chardonnay competition

Recognition for Kalala and Liquidity wineries at 2018 Chardonnay du Monde competition

Reel Reviews: Fear or love

We say, “Once again, one worth seeing, one not.”

Cancer fundraiser takes to Okanagan Lake

Penticton and Naramata joining growing fundraising event

Rainy week ahead for Okanagan and Shuswap

Environment Canada is forecast rain for the next three days, starting Tuesday afternoon

Janet Austin announced as B.C.’s new lieutenant governor

Austin has served as YWCA Metro Vancouver CEO since 2003

Ex-French president Sarkozy in custody on Gadhafi claims

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was placed in custody as part of an investigation that he received millions of euros in illegal financing

Hockey pioneer Kwong dies at 94

Vernon’s Larry Kwong was the first player to break NHL colour barrier in 1948

How Facebook likes could profile voters for manipulation

Facebook suspended Cambridge Analytica, a data-analysis firm worked for Trump’s 2016 campaign

Uber suspends self-driving car tests after fatality

A woman walking outside a crosswalk in Phoenix was killed when she was hit by a self-driving car

Police divers to resume river search for missing Montreal boy

Police divers and a helicopter search the shores of the Riviere des Prairies for missing 10-year old boy Ariel Jeffrey Kouakou

World’s last male northern white rhino dies

The world’s last male northern white rhino, Sudan, has died after “age-related complications”.

Millennials don’t deserve lazy label, says author

Author says millennial generation will be harbingers of change

Most Read