Pianos Galore

Chan Centre for the Performing Arts

May 21,1999
by Amanda McArthur

This was an evening of celebration, of the piano, and of B.C.'s young musicians. The sight of eight Steinway & Sons Concert Grand Pianos on one stage was impressive in and of itself, but not nearly as impressive as the performances that followed! The music began with six pianists playing Bach's lighthearted Concerto in A Minor, originally written for orchestra. These young performers achieved a wonderful unity of timing, dynamics and mood, even without a conductor. Two songs for baritone voice followed: "O Du, Mein Holder Abendstern" from Wagner's Tannhäuser, and "Bella Siccome un Angelo" from Donizetti's Don Pasquale with Garrick Huang singing accompanied by Winfried Rompf on the piano. Mr. Huang displayed excellent versatility, and I truly enjoyed his selections.

My first taste of 32 hands playing piano together was Waltz from Faust. With two people per piano, I felt like I was seeing double. It was much easier on the ears, though, and there was double the enthusiasm, double the volume, and double the pleasure. My only wish was to have the lids open on the pianos, but that might have been overindulging!

It was truly a treat to hear Grace Chan sing "Mon Couer s'Ouvre a ta Voix" from C. Saint-Saëns' Samson and Delilah, as well as "Sein Wir Wieder Gut" from R. Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos. A mezzo-soprano, Ms. Chan has a warm, expressive voice and she was obviously enjoying performing as much as the audience was enjoying her performance.

Czerny's "Quatuor Concertante, Op.230" was fantastic! The concertante, written for four pianos, was based on popular opera melodies of the 1830's and the delightful melodies were accompanied by dazzling runs, trills and other embellishments. I was absolutely captivated! The next piece was a piano duet, "Suite from Petrouchka". What a display of great technical skill and endurance! The music was continuously rhythmic and I found it quite mesmerizing. This was followed by Gershwin's "Bess, You is My Woman" from Porgy and Bess -- always a pleasure! Mr. Huang and Ms. Chan took the stage together this time and their talents complemented each other nicely.

The final piece was truly the highlight of the evening. The Overture from G.Rossini's opera Semiramide was a piano lover's dream come true. Once again, there were 32 hands at the pianos, and the full, rich sound brought tears to my eyes. The conductor, Ken Lee, encouraged every ounce of expression from these young musicians, and was rewarded with a spectacular ride that swept everyone along with him. This was the first annual "Pianos Galore" concert and already I am looking forward to the second!