A CHOPIN HOMECOMING
All-Chopin Concert, Naomi Kudo, piano; Tom Lee Music Hall, August 24, 2010
It was a homecoming of sorts for the young Japanese-Korean pianist, Naomi Kudo, in this all-Chopin concert sponsored jointly by the Vancouver Chopin Society and Tom Lee Music. Originally trained by the venerable Kum-Sing Lee at the Vancouver Academy of Music, 23-year old Naomi has gone on to win the 2008 Gilmore Young Artist Award and both the Chopin and the 2009 Artur Rubinstein prizes at the Julliard School of Music. She performed with the Chicago Symphony when only sixteen and has already given concerts in three continents.
What a commanding sound she produces: rich, powerful and integrated! Her exposition is very clear and the evenness of her runs is noteworthy. In the first part of the programme, highlighted by the Barcarolle, op.60 and the Ballade No 1, Op. 23, these characteristics were much in evidence but, if anything, she was slightly too deliberate and methodical to allow Chopin’s sensitivity to fully blossom. The later Ballade No. 4, Op. 52 however showed the artist’s spontaneity in full flight. Here there was a genuine sense of inevitability in the playing that led the listener’s ear on and on. Very exciting too!
This is not Chopin for the timid. It is bold and more masculine than one might be used to. Some might want more flexibility and liquidity in phrasing, and a greater poetic projection, but I think it is refreshing to hear the master played in an essentially non-sentimental way.
Judging from her tonal weight and expositional strength, Naomi is certainly well equipped to handle ‘big boned’ composers beyond Chopin: for example, Brahms and the Russians. I think that she would give a magisterial performance of Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2. It is wonderful to see an artist with such potential still at the time of ‘discovery’. We look forward to her future accomplishments.
© Geoffrey Newman 2010