JKP Blog Posts
Cho-Liang “Jimmy” Lin is a rock star in Taiwan. I had suspected this was the case even prior to our arrival here, but today’s press conference definitely proved the point.
I’ve been interviewed many times in my life, but it’s an entirely different ballgame to face a phalanx of reporters with cameras, video cameras, and digital recorders capturing your every twitch.
Each of us made a statement. A representative of Mercedes Benz spoke of an important part of this tour: educational and outreach concerts, including a special performance for aboriginal students at Chin-Ai Elementary School in Nantou County. Continue reading
On Monday, Apr 4, 2011 at 8pm in Stude Concert Hall at Rice University in Houston, TX, I am playing and conducting Mozart Piano Concerto No. 27 with musicians from the Shepherd School of Music and the River Oak Chamber Orchestra. Please make checks payable to the Japanese Association of Greater Houston. Raised funds go directly to the Japanese Red Cross.
On Tuesday, Apr 19 at Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver, Canada, I am playing and conducting Mozart Piano Concerto No. 27 with musicians from the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Tonari Gumi (the Japanese Community Volunteers Association) will distribute funds… Continue reading
It’s concert day, which means first of all, our dress rehearsal. I still recall my utter embarrassment, at the age of 20, when I showed up at my dress rehearsal of the Grieg Piano Concerto with the Vancouver Symphony…dressed. I came to a 10am dress rehearsal in tails, because I assumed that’s what “dress rehearsal” meant. I guess it still means something, clothing-wise, if you’re an opera singer. But for an orchestra dress rehearsal, it’s just an expression. Nowadays I typically show up in baseball cap and shorts.
I have my first rehearsal with the Iceland Symphony today. It’s going to be a long one – 90 minutes on the first movement of the Brahms Concerto, a 20-minute break, and another 90 minutes on the remaining movements. In total it’s almost an hour longer than a typical American orchestra rehearsal. I notice with some relief that there is a fully automated and high-tech espresso machine in the musicians’ lounge.
Now I understand why there was no need for a big plane. It’s barely 5 ½ hours from New York to Reykjavik. I was just starting to sleep for the overnight flight when the pilot announced we were landing. This may be the first time I have ever wished a flight was longer.
I’m headed from Keflavik airport into town, and wondering how Iceland got its name, and for that matter, how Greenland got its name. It’s as if when these countries were born, a nurse mistakenly switched their names in the nursery.
“Ice”-land manages to be green yet almost treeless.
The ‘earth’ isn’t earthen at all; it’s all lava with low-lying verdant growth. In a well-worn patter the driver brags that NASA has tested its moon vehicles here, and it’s easy to believe.
Greenland, on the other hand, which you can hardly avoid flying over on any North American flight to Iceland, is whiter than a bleached polar bear. I’ve flown over Greenland often, and usually seen only an endless expanse of white. This time, my spectacular view of “Green”-land from the plane featured mountain peaks swimming in what appears to be mile-deep snow.
I had first heard of Reykjavik as a 12-year-old chess enthusiast. As the host of the Fischer-Spassky Chess tournament, with its Cold War reverberations, it seemed impossibly remote. Since then, I’ve only been aware of the occasional musical connections to Iceland: two rather different performers, Ashkenazy and Björk, come to mind.
So an opportunity to visit Reykjavik and perform with the Iceland Symphony is irresistible. I love the unfamiliar. The repertoire is Brahms 1st Piano Concerto. But my first question after agreeing to the concert was, “How do I get there?” Continue reading
Today Cho-Liang “Jimmy” Lin and I are performing Paul Schoenfield’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in its New York Premiere performance in the wonderfully improved Alice Tully Hall. The program includes the Brahms Horn Trio with our esteemed horn colleague, William “Bill” VerMeulen. The Sonata is a New York premiere, but not quite the World Premiere – that honor went to the La Jolla Summerfest last August. The Sonata is the result of a joint premiering program by the LaJolla Summerfest and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
So which would be the better performance to attend? The World Premiere, with its freshness bursting from the players, or the New York Premiere, eight months longer in the tooth, but with a notch of experience on the belt?
My friend and colleague, the composer William Hirtz, can work pianistic miracles out of harmony, rhythm and texture. Several years ago he showed me a piano duet Fantasy that he had composed using several of Harold Arlen’s iconic themes from the “Wizard of Oz” soundtrack. It was joyous, technically raucous, and seemingly featured dozens of notes all at once. I jokingly commented that I if he could arrange this Fantasy for one piano two hands, I would happily play it. I thought nothing more about it.
Fast forward several months: one day my fax machine started up and several insanely dotted pages spewed forth. I recognized the music – it was indeed the Fantasy… Continue reading
First of all, Rach 3 is just a terrible summer piece. I am never asked to play this in the summer. Orchestras have very minimal rehearsal time in the summer (I’ll never forget my 17-minute single dress rehearsal of the Ravel Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Vail a few summers ago…) and Rach 3 is filled with rehearsal-time-sucking rubati. There’s also something about the structural ambition of the piece – it’s a little long for a summer audience’s attention span.
But here I am in Chicago playing Rach 3 with Carlos Kalmar and the Grant Park Festival Orchestra, which has kept its famous name (it’s their 75th anniversary) but has physically moved to the spectacular new outdoor Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Continue reading
Winnipeg, Manitoba It is 6:03pm and I am stepping out of my 15th floor hotel room in Winnipeg to hear a most unexpected sound. It is a sound coming from the room across the hall. It is the sound of a sweet melody of Tchaikovsky’s imagining. It is the sound of a beautifully shaped phrase, articulate and warm at the same time. It is the sound of someone experimenting to make something better than before. To my amazement, it is the sound of Charles “Chip” Hamann, Principal Oboist of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, and he is practicing the oboe solo from the 2nd movement of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.
This is the last day of our 20-day tour. Last night we performed in Saskatoon, and today we have bussed and flown and bussed to Winnipeg. By all rights every member of the orchestra should be resting in their rooms, finding lunch, or enjoying the fresh air and the crunch of the snow. But Chip is rehearsing a solo that he has performed absolutely beautifully over and over on this tour. I’m incredibly touched and inspired to hear this. Continue reading