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Haochen Zhang at Jordan Hall

Last night we went to a most splendid concert at Jordan Hall.

The pianist, Haochen Zhang, is only 20 years old, having won the Van Cliburn last year.

The program in the first half had the four Chopin Ballades which are quite an earful of wonderful music. For the second half he played the Brahms Klavierstücke Op 118 (the A Major Intermezzo is one of the most beautiful pieces) followed by Piano Sonata No 1 by Alberto Ginastera, an earlier 20th century Argentinian who I'd never heard of before. It was a pretty splendid piece - with lots of notes played quite fast except for the Adagio.

For encores he played Schumann's Traumerei (one of the few things that I can sort of play) and something I think by Chopin - both were quite dreamy with lots of well chosen rubato.

The hall wasn't full - I'm suspect that some of the snobbier concert goers elected to skip an unknown - too bad, they missed quite an evening.

I read he had his debut at 5 years old playing the Bach 2-part inventions. Apparently some Van Cliburn winners never quite make it bit but I'm rooting for this guy - he is quite something. I hope he doesn't get too popular too soon and have his concerts in Symphony hall - we don't like solo concerts or chamber music in that huge space and thus miss some fine concerts.

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I really liked this concert. I always have a little trouble listening to anyone play the Brahms Op. 118 pieces, because I learned them myself a long time ago (and I still [sort of] play some of them), and nobody else's interpretation ever sounds quite "right". His were pretty damn good, though.

Critic wannabe that I am, I did notice one quirk of his playing: When there's a sustained note that acts as a pivot between two harmonies, he tended to hold down the pedal (sustaining the previous chord) until it was time to being the new harmony in, thus never letting us hear the note by itself. This was interesting the first time he did it, but it got a little tiresome after a while.

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