CHRISTOPHER PARK in recital
Town Hall, Birmingham, Monday 19th June, 2017
The longest piece on the programme opens the show, Variations & Fugue on a theme by Handel by Brahms. It’s the ideal piece to commence the evening and establishes Christopher Park’s virtuoso status from the off. At times florid, light, jaunty and sombre, the piece is a little like switching through television channels, and Park handles the sometimes abrupt changes of mood and tempo with ease. Every gear change Brahms throws at us is skilfully handled – we are in safe hands, but are his hands safe? When it’s over, Park announces he has to leave the stage to fetch a plaster. He has cut his finger, and I’m not surprised. Such robust, intense playing could result in a keyboard like a butcher’s shambles.
He returns for a couple of Chopin pieces, the Nocturne Op 9 No 3 and his own transcription of the Larghetto Op 2 from Piano Concerto no 2. This is how I like my Chopin, moody, stirring and romantic, melancholy as a rainy day. This is the highlight of the evening for me.
After the interval comes Olga Neuwirth’s 2016 piece, Trurl – Tichy – Tinkle (you what, mate?). It begins percussively and its seemingly random nature reminds me of when people see modern art and say their two-year-old could draw better. I think that’s the point. Neuwirth captures the primitivism of someone idling at the piano, a child before the rigours of classicism are introduced. But that’s not all. This piece gives us atmosphere, sometimes eerie, sometimes playful, it’s like a soundtrack to a cartoon we can’t see. You won’t be whistling this one on the way home but it certainly demonstrates the versatility of the instrument and, yet again, the mastery of Christopher Park.
We finish with Stravinsky: Trois mouvements de Petrouchka. Some assertive, heavy-handed yet melodic pieces as though Park is fighting off the Russian army. It’s stirring, vigorous stuff and seems conventional coming after the Neuwirth. It culminates in a bashing crescendo and, I don’t know about Park, but I am spent.
Park returns for an encore, a comparatively frothy bit of Beethoven.
There might be blood on the piano but there is also the risk that my hands will be reduced to bloody stumps from all the applause.