SHOKO INOUE Recital at Gallery 345 reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

Tuesday, December 9, 2008, Gallery 345, Toronto.

Les Amis Concerts presented prize-winning pianist Shoko Inoue in a gallery setting that let the audience feel part of an intimate salon for the technically daunting program she’d chosen.  We see her (above) interpreting the fragile beauty of a passage that opens the first “Ballade (G Minor)” that the young Chopin originated in Paris. Ms. Inoue has a dramatic talent. She appears free to imagine in herself the composer’s emotion as it morphs from uncertainty to melancholy and quickens to a fiery outpouring.  She presents the lovely melody of second theme quietly and returns to the main theme with an ear for the intricate counterpoint of the accompaniment. There is an intelligent playfulness that she allows into the ebb and flow of more dramatic emotions until a turbulent darkness settles over the ending.

By the time she’d finished the first repeat of the solemn introductory theme of Beethoven’s “Pathetique” Sonata, it was clear that we were in the presence of something special. She played boldly, without holding back the vigour and quickness of her tempo, and the fun she seemed to be having made me smile. Her playing of the famous cantabile of the “Adagio” was moderately paced and not saccharine. Each of the three repeats of this theme, and each of the two modulating episodes brought out something new in the music. I especially appreciated the emphatic humour she brought to the second episode. She managed a terrific sense of release as the Rondo closes and moves into the brief minor coda. The individuality apparent in Ms. Inoue’s playing of this piece brings Glenn Gould to mind.

It was like “Roll Over Beethoven” when Ms. Inoue moved to the finale of her program, Scriabin’s “Sonata, Op. 68” known as “Black Mass” a highly chromatic, atonal, dissonant work, admired by Stravinsky and championed by Horowitz. It is built around a mysterious opening theme that is repeated with variations at intervals amid a structure of accelerating tension, complexity and unsettling force. Ms. Inoue’s total dedication to her playing made it by far the best interpretation I’ve heard. Her playing is organic. She follows the bipolar shifts of the score with feral concentration, abandoning herself to the madness inherent in the cosmic and sometimes cataclysmic visions that arise before the opening theme returns to bring a quiet ending.

After giving us everything she had in mind, as an encore, Ms. Inoue gave us her heart: She played the 20 minute first movement of Schubert’s “Sonata in B-flat Major, D.960.” By way of introduction, Ms. Inoue read a poem that expresses the loneliness of facing imminent death, as Schubert was when he composed this work, and of finding joy, as Schubert did, in the courageous expression of that loneliness. A few bars into it, a woman began to cry. When it was over, the audience asked for yet another encore. Understandably, Ms. Inoue declined. But better yet, the next solo piano recital in Toronto by Ms Inoue is at Glenn Gould Studio on January 19, 2009 and will feature the music of Schubert, Bach, Webern and Chopin.

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