It’s been a very long time since I’ve been to the recital hall, and my friend and now semi-seasoned concertgoing friend had never been, so we took the opportunity to hear a pianist neither of us had ever heard of play music that neither of us are terribly familiar with. But who doesn’t know Pictures at an Exhibition?
The recital hall is the smaller, more intimate younger brother (or son?) of the handsome, almost imposing, angular concert hall upstairs. They’re in the same building, and down a few flights of stairs, past the restaurant(s) we frequently eat at pre-concert, down another set of stairs and into what really feels like the bowels of the building, an underground, safe, solid, square shoebox of a space, equally as handsome in rich hardwoods, but slightly lighter than its upstairs counterpart, and void of marble, is a very nice space we unfortunately had to sit in the very back row of.
I am not a member of the ticketing agency that handled this concert, and the only way to buy tickets online was to have them mailed to my home. This isn’t 2007. So the only tickets left (in the price range I’d even consider) were at the literal very back row. No matter. It was actually still quite a nice seat, so we were able to enjoy the concert, aside from members of the Kiwanis club and some other groups of entitled, rude, disrespectful, belligerent people who insisted on talking, standing, drinking, digging through bags, and taking photos throughout the entire recital. It was incredibly disrespectful, distracting, and disturbing for the rest of the audience, so shame on at least half of who you attended yesterday for disturbing what was otherwise a really fantastic concert. Enough about the terrible audience.
The pianist was great. I’m not sure what the relation was between the abominable, disrespectful groups in the audience and the pianist, but I complained afterward to the staff, and apparently they were supporters or organizers or something. In any case, I got the impression that he’d just come back (maybe) from living abroad (studying in America) and was giving his recital here in Taiwan.
The program was simple, but large: Schumann’s Kinderszenen and Symphonic Etudes, and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Hefty works, for a heavy-feeling program.
As I said earlier, works I’m not terribly familiar with. Mussorgsky’s piece aside. The Kinderszenen was played with delicacy and depth, even in places that seem sparse or thin, it was all played with meaning. To be honest though, the despicable audience members were so distracting it was difficult to pay attention to the piece.
Don’t get me wrong; it was nice to see a full hall, and I was glad for the pianist that he had such a nice turnout, but shuffling around in your bag or ‘whispering’ to your neighbor can easily disturb a piece like this in such an intimate setting, and it did. As a matter of fact, between the two Schumann pieces, the pianist himself reminded us that eating/drinking and photography are not allowed during the performance.
The Symphonic Etudes came next, a much more robust, showy collection of pieces to express exactly what the title says: symphonic characteristics and color. It seems impressive that this piece has such an early opus number and is so imaginative. It’s the first time I can recall ever listening to it end to end, live or otherwise, and again… it would have been nice to enjoy it as part of a more well-behaved audience, but it was played well.
During the intermission, the ushers made their way through the audience with their hit lists, asking certain individuals to stop being jackasses or please do not eat or drink or take photos or do tinfoil origami or use their typewriters or whatever people were doing that was so distracting. I think a few people left then as well.
As a result, the Mussorgsky piece was much easier to enjoy. In speaking of color and personality and those characteristics from the Schumann piece(s), Mussorgsky’s work is a wonderful example of that as well. It focuses more on artistic rather than technical expression, and the individual sections are so varied. It’s one of those works you hear again and realize you know it far better than you realize, more than just The Old Castle and The Great Gate of Kiev. This was the gem of the program.
It certainly wasn’t my favorite program ever, and there’s plenty else I’d love to have heard this pianist perform, but (audience antics aside) it was a very enjoyable recital, in a handsome, intimate space that the pianist used to his advantage, making use of the space available to fill it with distant echoes of childhood memories, goblins, fowls, castle gates, and more, all with different effects and results. I look forward to your next recital, hopefully with better-trained attendees.