Jon Kimura Parker Shines from Beethoven to Billy Joel

REVIEW | 11.15.09 | By L.H. Tiffany Hsieh | Scena Once in a while, a concert pianist comes across as both virtuoso and versatile. That was the case at Koerner Hall on Nov. 8. The pianist was Canada’s own Jon Kimura Parker, whose afternoon recital began with two well-known Beethoven sonatas.

The Pathétique (Op. 13) and Appassionata (Op. 57) are two of Beethoven’s most beloved piano sonatas. Parker played both pieces with conviction and a clear sense of structures that kept the big picture in focus.

With Beethoven, rests are just as important as notes, and while Parker’s rests seemed peculiarly long at times (for example, the Grave in Pathétique), they created extra tension and drama in the beautiful, intimate Koerner Hall. The sound he produced from the shiny black Steinway was warm and luminous, but the contrast in dynamics was overwhelmed at times, especially in loud crescendos. The slow movements were simple and lovely, his voicing and tonal imagination unmatched. Continue reading

Pianist Jon Kimura Parker and violinist James Ehnes perform in one of finest concerts of the year

James Ehnes, Violinist

REVIEW | 07.23.09 | Toronto Star Serious music usually takes a summertime break in Toronto. But that didn’t stop an upstart downtown festival from giving us one of the finest concerts of the year Tuesday night.

It took 15 years for two Canadian stars – pianist Jon Kimura Parker and violinist James Ehnes – to co-ordinate their performing schedules. Given the spectacular results at the Carlu (the once-legendary Eaton Auditorium), one can only hope that this was the beginning of a long and frequent collaboration.

The duo opened the fourth annual Toronto Summer Music Academy & Festival, which runs to Aug. 13.

Organizers could not have picked a finer way to showcase the quality of musician that artistic director Agnes Grossman has attracted. Continue reading

Rains fail to dampen fervor of Grant Park’s Burnham premiere

REVIEW  |  06.22.09  |  Chicago Tribune As if heeding a Daniel Burnham-esque call for renewed civic dedication in the face of adversity, a hardy band of listeners stuck out a drenching thunderstorm to witness the world premiere of a new Burnham-inspired oratorio Friday night in Millennium Park.

This Grant Park Music Festival event gave a soggy send-off to the yearlong celebration of the 100th anniversary of the architect’s Plan of Chicago. A noisy cloudburst cleared the Great Lawn and forced many to seek shelter at the back of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

While it was hardly the most auspicious launch for “Plans,” American composer Michael Torke’s oratorio drew a committed performance from the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, and vocal soloists, under Carlos Kalmar’s direction. City and state dignitaries, including Governor Pat Quinn and Mayor Richard M. Daley (heard via tape recording), lent their imprimatur to the kickoff. Continue reading

With unplanned weather, Torke’s “Plans” receives ardent if soggy premiere

REVIEW  |  06.20.2009  |  Chicago Classical Review

It’s always a great idea to make big plans, but it’s sometimes difficult when the weather doesn’t cooperate.

The Grant Park Music Festival premiered Plans by Michael Torke Friday night, a work commissioned by the festival as part of the city-wide events marking the centennial of Daniel Burnham’s Plan of Chicago.

A raging thunderstorm and heavy rains drenched Millennium Park during the performance, yet, in the game tradition of Burnham, the show went on, with many hardy souls remaining in the exposed seats bundled up under umbrellas. Continue reading

How Not To Play Rach 3

Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, Chicago, Ill

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

San Diego Symphony finely attuned to Gershwin

REVIEW  |05.23.09  |  San Diego News Network Today and tomorrow mark the San Diego Symphony’s final performances in this season’s Jacobs’ Masterworks Series at downtown’s Copley Symphony Hall. That means you have just two more chances to hear music director Jahja Ling and the orchestra join pianist Jon Kimura Parker in what is surely one of the finest interpretations of Gershwin’s Concerto in F that the orchestra has ever presented.

How do I know? I attended last night’s performance of the appealingly eclectic program, which includes Harbison’s “Remembering Gatsby: Foxtrot for Orchestra” and Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2.

Harbison’s “Foxtrot” – a skillful blend of dark sonorities and 1920’s-style party music – is part of a larger orchestra work by the composer who also wrote an opera based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel. A man sitting near me was so taken by the dance band beat that he couldn’t resist tapping his feet. Continue reading

Jeewon Lee wins Shepherd School Concerto Competition

Jeewon Lee

Congratulations to Parker Studio doctoral pianist Jeewon Lee, who won the First Prize in the Shepherd School Concerto Competition! Conductor Larry Rachleff commented that for the first time in the history of the competition, it was won with a Mozart Concerto, in this case, Mozart Piano Concerto in D Minor, K. 466.

Harrell, Parker show is tops; THE BEST: Recital was the most beautiful performance in 20 years.

Lynn Harrell, Cello

REVIEW  |  12.08.08  |  Anchorage Daily News If you missed the recital by Lynn Harrell and Jon Kimura Parker on Saturday, I grieve for you.

The Anchorage Concert Association-sponsored program by cellist Harrell and pianist Parker should have taken place in a more intimate space than Atwood Concert Hall; but the Discovery Theatre was occupied.

The hangar-size hall was about half full, so the mezzanine and balcony were closed and everyone moved to the main floor for what turned out to be a magical evening by two of music’s most generous souls.

I could write rhapsodically about the warm and sensitive sound of Brahms’ First Cello Sonata, the precision of the counterpoint in its finale and the unity of spirit and rhythm in Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No. 4, which followed. Either and both were among the cream of performances ever given in our city. Continue reading

Symphony shines on Russian sojourn

REVIEW  |  11.14.08  |  Houston Chronicle

The sunny side of Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky ­- that’s the guiding principle, more or less, of this weekend’s Houston Symphony program at Jones Hall.

The program showcases merry, comparatively early compositions of two Russian masters more readily identified with somber and melancholy works, such as Shostakovich’s Babi Yar Symphony and Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique.

Even more unexpectedly, this musical sojourn through Russia also includes a brief detour to East Texas. Don’t ask how, but it all seemed to fit together perfectly at Thursday’s opening of the program, which repeats tonight and Sunday. Continue reading

NACO tour blog 8: Aim Even Higher

Thie Highest Point of our Tour?

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


"Jon Kimura Parker...Has never performed as intimately and imaginatively in Portland as he did Sunday. Parker played like a one-man orchestra, calling forth different colors and textures as the music required."
-The Oregonian


"Fantasy is not just a technical showcase, but a big, clear picture window of a musician with a rich soul and great artistic depth. It is also a fantastic example of programming that entertains as well as edifies.”
-Musical Toronto

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