WINSTON CHOI IN CONCERT by Stanley Fefferman

Sunday, March 25, 2007
Mooredale Matinee Concerts
‘WATER IMAGES’ & Beethoven
with Winston Choi, piano; Minghuan Xu, Violin; Rafael Hoekman, cello
Walter Hall, Toronto.

This Moordale Concert showcased pianist Winston Choi playing solo as well as in duo and trio combinations. Clarity is the keynote of Choi’s presentation style, which he emphasizes by organization and dramatic, high contrast playing. The solo portion of his programme is organized around the theme of water. It begins with two lovely Schubert songs transcribed for piano by Liszt. “Auf Dem Wasser Zu Zingen” has opposing melodies running from both hands, the right flowing lightly in ripples, the left as if outlining the turbulence in darker and quite forceful tones. “Die Forelle”, that loveliest of melodies, Choi played brightly and with surprising force.

Debussy’s “Poisson d’or” rippled and rolled, fishily twisting, swirling and clearly leaping out of Choi’s arpeggiated runs, still dramatic despite his agreeably softer touch on the keys. Choi’s lyrical sense emerged further in the light, flowing opening and crystalline impressionistic high-register runs of “The Fountain of the Acqua Paola” by Charles Griffe. John Ireland’s “Amberley Wild Brooks”, a very open sounding piece, was played exactly as it should be.

“Orage”, a stormy composition by Liszt, thundered from the start, opposing melody and bass rumbles reminiscent of Chopinesque melodrama favoured in films about the 1940’s wartime era. The highlight of the solo program was a piece by young composer Misha Zupko called “Rain”. Drops fall singly, ripple out, fall and ripple repeat in various intervals setting a unique rhythmic pattern, fast and slow, loud and soft, but always the tone is pleasing and holds the drama of the event in focus.

Minghuan Xu joined Choi in the prolific Omar Daniel’s “Wild Honey” for Violin and Piano”(2000), a dramatic piece in three movements. The first movement balances a Sati-like repeated sequence of single, long-held notes from the piano, against the violin’s melody and drone. The combination creates an effect of spatial masses of sound that is satisfying. The second movement opens with a sustained violin note that sets the piano off on a wild, shifting rhythmic run, a kind of perpetuum mobile that climbs in terse, jerky, opposing chunks of of sound. The final movement is meditative, fluty, wheezy, breathy, buzzy, like winged insects whose flight holds the attention rigid until the intensity breaks into a dance.

Following intermission, Rafael Hoekman made it a trio and we heard Beethoven’s” Piano Trio Op. 97” subtitled ‘The Archduke’. Choi sounds the familiar theme delicately––violin and cello answer. The first movement develops the drama, but tenderly and with humour, especially in the pizzicato exchanges before the recapitulation. The cello introduces both themes of the ‘Scherzo’ placed in the second movement. Choi’s ensemble work in tone and timing is terrific. The sonorous and slow “Andante Cantabile” was linked to the bouncy “Allegro” full of folkdance, humour and a robust sense of well-being that was very much appreciated by the audience.

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