One of Europe’s rising stars, pianist Christopher Park makes his New Zealand debut tomorrow night with Orchestra Wellington in their concert “The River”.
The German Korean pianist is also about to make his debut in a number of Europe’s most renowned concert halls after being named “Rising Star” of 2017 by ECHO the European Concert Hall Organisation.
Park was also a Leonard Bernstein award winner in 2014 joining the ranks of noteworthy musicians Lang Lang, Lisa Batiashvili and Martin Grubinger.
On Saturday he takes the stage at Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre with Orchestra Wellington playing Bartok’s First Piano Concerto in the all-Bohemian programme featuring Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony and Smetana’s “Moldau”.
Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony is some of the composer’s happiest music, written in his beloved Bohemian countryside amid a floodtide of inspiration so swift his pen could barely keep pace with it. Smetana’s “Moldau” is one of the most seductive pieces of musical nationalism ever written, depicting the river flowing past the great city and disappearing from the poet’s view.
Christopher says that the Bartok Piano Concerto is enormously challenging. It’s a very complicated work with a dark, violent atmosphere, especially the second movement which is essentially a dialogue between piano and percussion. He cautions that the music is confronting and verges on being frightening, even uncomfortable, due to its strong percussive sounds. “I’m looking forward to frightening the audience” he jokes.
Park and Orchestra Wellington concert master Amalia Hall met at a music festival in Germany two years ago and last year did a comprehensive recital tour of New Zealand. When performing a difficult work like the Bartok Piano Concerto, Park says it’s a luxury to have worked with the Concertmaster before and to understand each other’s musical language.
Hall is also a serious competition winner: in 2016 she won the Wieniawski Competition and she is also a laureate of the Joseph Joachim Competition and the International Violin Competition ‘Premio R. Lipizer’ among others.
Amalia says that the preparation process for competitions has provided her with opportunities for growth as a musician but she and Christopher both agree that music performance is endlessly subjective and not something that can or should be measured. They observe that competition standards can be rather rigid and often leave no room for highly individual performances that push boundaries of interpretation.
“Glenn Gould or Horowitz would never have won first prize in a competition,” says Park, “because there would be people who like [their performance] and people who hate it.” “There is no right way in music, just different interpretations”, adds Hall.
As a soloist, Amalia also has an interest in chamber music and has a Baroque bow in her case for performing Bach. “I think it’s so nice be able to have breath and lightness and air in your sound for Baroque music.”
Now into her second year as Concertmaster of Orchestra Wellington Amalia is thoroughly enjoying the position. She says she’s learning a lot about the role with each performance and finds Orchestra Wellington and Marc Taddei wonderful to work with.
In addition to Saturday’s concert you can hear Christopher Park and Amalia Hall in a special lunchtime recital on October 30th at St Andrews on the Terrace, Wellington where they’ll present an enticing programme of sonatas by Mozart and Brahms.
If you can't make these concerts Christopher has just released a new CD with works by Schumann, Stravinsky and Neuwirth on Oehms Classics. The album is being celebrated in European magazines as a "brilliant recording" and a "reference version".