June 12, 2011 “CAUTION: Fire Hazard” (Review)

The title of Cary Chow’s piano recital in Chemainus on June 12th, the last in this year’s St. Michael’s Presents series, was well chosen for this program of spectacular keyboard fireworks. The Vancouver pianist played to a full house, beginning with late works of Brahms: three Capriccios—fast, intense, virtuosic pieces. Then an arrangement by Brahms of Bach’s violin Chaconne in D Minor, arranged for the left hand alone. We don’t often see pieces for one hand only (Ravel wrote a left-hand concerto for a pianist who’d lost his other hand in World War I), and this one had enough notes for two hands, or more.

Schumann’s Carnival, which ended the first half, is an amazing tour de force. Played on the small Yahama grand, it rocked the audience back in their seats. Had Chow brought along his 1892 Bechstein from Vancouver, he might well have blown the church’s windows out.

The second half consisted of an Etude-Tableau by Rachmaninoff, and ended with Prokoviev’s Sonata #7, a neo-classical piece written during  World War II. Not romantic or lush at all, its harsh, restless rhythms reflect the terrible ordeal suffered by the Soviet Union during the war. At the end, the audience demanded an encore, and Chow obliged with some Chopin, a sweetener after so much tumult. It was an excellent program, and we can look forward to more in next year’s series of concerts.

–Bill Morrison