World-acclaimed Canadian pianist Michael Kim celebrated his return to Sechelt's Raven's Cry Theatre, Sunday, Feb. 22, after an absence of five years.
Kim gave a stirring performance of a wide range of piano works encompassing 200 years of musical creation from Bach to Liszt. Kim opened his program with the Chorale Prelude Nun komm' der Heiden Heiland (Come Redeemer) giving a deeply moving interpretation. Then followed Mozart's captivating Sonata No. 11 in C major K330, each movement epitomizing the composer's perfection in craftsmanship and endless flow of melody and proving that technique as exemplified by our soloist is a tool of honest, elegant expression, aided by a memorable tonal palette.
Kim then turned to three of Frederic Chopin's frequently-played compositions, beginning with the Fantasie-Impromptu in C-sharp minor Op. 66 with its brilliant sixteenth-note perpetuo-moto shaping.
Then came the considered corner-stone of this recital, Kim's rendition of the enigmatic Ballade in G minor Op, 23 no. 1, written by a young patriot whose beloved Warsaw had just fallen to the Russians. Kim incisively portrayed the early deep melancholy, even anger that Chopin personally felt with this military setback, building the music to heights of incoherent passion. Key to this performance was his subtle rubato playing, a way of pulling the time around for greater expression for which Chopin was famous. The most-played of this composer's 17 Polonaises, that in A flat, Op.53, the Heroic completed the Chopin offerings. Kim gave the octave crescendo in the left hand and a fusillade of notes that followed a compelling virtuosic performance with impeccable clarity that truly echoed the martial spirit of this stately dance in triple time.
Following the intermission, Kim performed, in a gentler mood, the Brahms Intermezzo Op.118, no.2 in A, beautifully presented, and the Vallee d'Obermann, a miniature evocative tone poem, one of a series of musical snapshots of a Swiss holiday, again brilliantly executed.
He concluded his recital with his own energy-charged unerring version of the Bizet-Horowitz transcription of a theme from the opera Carmen, pulling out all the stops in a tribute to his hero, the late Vladimir Horowitz, and bringing his audience to their feet.
For his encore, Kim treated his listeners to Debussy's Clair de Lune from his Suite Bergamasque, displaying flowing melodic lines of shimmering pianissimo. Kim's warm, outgoing stage presence was sprinkled with humorous self-effacing comments and insightful outlines of his program much to the enjoyment of his capacity audience.