Pianist Parker has Brahms well in hand(s)
REVIEW | 3.05.2012 | By Holly Harris | Winnipeg Free Press
The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra welcomed March not with a lamb, but with a formidable musical lion as it featured world-class Canadian pianist Jon Kimura Parker in its latest Masterworks concert, the aptly titled Parker Plays Brahms 2.
The highlight of Friday night’s concert, led by Alexander Mickelthwate, was the Vancouver-born artist performing Johannes Brahms’ Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 83. The four-movement epic work is considered a staple in any major concert artist’s diet, on par with others including: Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Op. 30 or Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 16.
Parker established an international career after winning the prestigious Leeds International Piano Competition in 1984. He has performed with symphony orchestras around the world as well as given command performances for royalty. Currently on faculty with Rice University, he maintains an active performing career and received the Order of Canada in 1999. The versatile musician last graced the WSO stage in 2004 when he performed Gershwin’s jazzy Concerto in F.
Brahms’ heavily romantic work steeped with Beethoven’s influence demands a player who can grasp the entire piece as a whole, and Parker proved he had it well in hand. After associate principal horn Ken MacDonald’s evocative opening solo, he launched into the first movement Allegro non troppo with gusto. His renowned liquid tone and gorgeous voicing became immediately evident as he coaxed sound from his instrument, including double trills and bell-like tones in the upper register. But Parker is also known for his dazzling showmanship; a player of temperament unafraid to let open torrid floodgates. This he did during the Allegro appassionato, despite also being under the weather that night.
The Andante is one of those pieces for the proverbial desert island. Parker once again sculpted sound like an artist, filling his solo passages with world-weary resignation and suspended grace after principal cellist Yuri Hooker’s soulful opening melody. The Allegretto grazioso caps off the 50-minute work with its rollicking rhythms crisply articulated by the pianist. Audience members leapt to their feet in a rousing standing ovation, knowing they had just heard one of Canada’s top living classical artists today.