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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 2, No. 8

Parker Piano Preview

by Martin Kamela / May 1, 1997

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In 1984 young Japanese-Canadian pianist Jon Kimura Parker shot into the spotlight taking the top prize at the Leeds International Piano Competition in Britain. As a laureate of the Leeds Competition he joined the impressive fraternity of past winners which includes Radu Lupu and Murray Perahia.

I first heard Parker live about ten years ago in concert with the Edmonton Symphony at the Jubilee Auditorium. Parker has a virile stage presence that immediately commands attention. His performance of Prokofiev's daunting Piano Concerto No 3 was unforgettable. With a rich, round piano tone he communicated both the lyricism and the sometimes furious excitement of the work. He did not hide behind the bravura notes but rather made the music his own and conveyed a genuine understanding of the piece.

Since that memorable concerto I have heard Parker once more live with the Edmonton Symphony and several more times on CBC radio. At each hearing my initial impressions are confirmed: here is an artist truly in touch with his musical ideas, expressing them with conviction, ample technical ability and discipline.

Jon Kimura "Jackie" Parker was born to a musical family in Vancouver. His uncle Edward Parker and his mother Keiko gave him early training (his younger brother James Parker, also a pianist, will be playing at the Chamber Music Festival on Mt. Royal at the end of May). Musical studies took Jackie to New York's Julliard School where he studied with noted pedagogue Adele Marcus. Although he now resides in New York City, Mr. Parker returns regularly to his home town of Vancouver and plays frequently in Canada. Parker is a founding member of Piano Six, a group of Canadian pianists including Marc-André Hemelin, Janina Fialkowska, Angela Hewitt, André Laplante, and Angela Cheng who travel to remote Canadian communities spreading the gospel of the piano recital. Parker has toured the Arctic playing Beethoven, Chopin, Nirvana and Alanis Morissette on an electric keyboard to hundreds of Inuit schoolchildren. Considering the shortage of good piano recitals in Montréal, and the complete absence of a piano recital series, I wish Piano Six would stop here on one of their tours.

Parker's repertoire is eclectic. He is at home in the romantic as well as in the virtuosic neo-classical repertoire (check out the Telarc recording of the Barber Piano Concerto with Yoel Levi and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra). To judge from the radio broadcasts, his Chopin has character and there is subtlety and discipline in his Mozart interpretations (unfortunately his Chopin discs seem to have been deleted by Telarc though his humorous duets with P.D.Q. Bach remain available). Another of Parker's musical interests is the repertoire influenced by jazz and North American music. He concluded several recent recitals with a medley of movements from Canadian and American compositions by Corea, Adams, Louie, Buczynski and Barber. Parker should be praised for introducing audiences to the contemporary classical repertoire which certainly deserves more attention than it gets.

Parker's May 5th concert with the McGill Chamber Orchestra is promising in several ways. The public will be treated to Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 which is a great vehicle for a pianist who is conscious of detail in the right way. The first movement starts with an intense, rather somber C minor theme and climbs to a rousing finale. The pastoral and at times Mozartian E major (not E flat!) middle Largo brings the piece to the final Rondo which provides the pianist with more opportunities for voicing both subtle lyrical lines and lively excitement, passing through an E major restatement of the theme before ending in a warm, life affirming C major coda. Parker will play with the McGill Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Alexander Brott in the 1450 seat Théâtre Maisonneuve, a venue where the more intimate acoustics will permit full appreciation of the piano's softer passages. Beethoven's Symphony No. 8 is also on the program. A musical event not to be missed. May 5, 20h00. $15-30. 842-2112.

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