Press/Review #2

March 28, 2002

Los Angeles Times--MUSIC REVIEW

Svrcek Answers Demands of 'Piano Study 3'

By DANIEL CARIAGA, Times Staff Writer

The world premiere of Hyo-shin Na's "Piano Study 3" was a highlight of Susan Svrcek's latest recital in the Piano Spheres series Tuesday at Neighborhood Church in Pasadena.
A commission by the enterprising organization, it is a technically demanding piece for the instrumentalist, an intriguing one for the listener. It lives in the treble regions of the instrument, visiting the lower octaves seldom. It tinkles; it simulates Korean instruments; it assumes a walking gait; it specializes in the pentatonic mode, and it is repetitive--but both the mode and the repetitions are charming rather than irritating, for the piece lasts only eight minutes.
The composer was present; she shared bows with the pianist.
Another living composer, this one 35 years older than Na, was also in the commodious sanctuary of the neo-Craftsman church. Benjamin Lees wrote the two works, "Odyssey I" and "Odyssey II," that constituted most of the first half of this recital.
They are ballad-like pieces of considerable impact that contrast gentle and warlike moods, rhapsodic and epic passages, and present a succession of shared and urgent feelings. The musical narrative in both is ongoing but not chaotic, and thoroughly compelling.
These attractive pieces surrounded the quiet pairing of John Cage's suave, entirely diatonic "Dream" (1948) and Debussy's final solo piano piece, the meditative "Elegie" (1915). Svrcek played both exquisitely, making at least one pianist in this audience of pianists want to find these scores and play them--now.
The program ended with two pieces of political reference by Yuji Takahashi, "Kwangju, (May 1980)," a memorial to victims of the Kwangju massacre, accompanied by projections of artwork by Taeko Tomiyama, and "Chained Hands in Prayer" (1976), a set of variations on a hymn attributed to Korean poet Ji-ha Kim, who was held prisoner in the 1970s. Svrcek gave the entire program the title "Personal Journeys."

By DANIEL CARIAGA

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