Seong-Jin Cho piano recital brilliant but uneven

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 March, 2015, 6:12am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 March, 2015, 11:07am

Seong-Jin Cho Piano Recital

Concert Hall, City Hall

Reviewed: March 6

This brilliant and beautiful recital showed that Seong-Jin Cho is an exceptional pianist, and if he finds a way to consistently dig deeper, he will be a remarkable artist.

He did reach that level in an electrifying way in at least two pieces: Liszt's Transcendental Etude No 10 and his second encore, Chopin's Polonaise in A-flat major. The balance of fiery brilliance and lyricism was just what the music demanded. Cho's playing of Mozart's Sonata No 3 in B-flat, K281, was robust and sparkling, with poetry in the slow movement.

But his rendition of the first movement's opening theme was unmemorable. When the motif was reintroduced, there should have been a jolt of recognition, but it passed by as just another decorative element.

Cho (below) made the Transcendental Etude his own. He nailed the mood of Liszt's intense octave melodies

In the second half. Chopin's Sonata No 2 in B-flat minor seemed at times like one long cadenza, with astonishingly even scales, blistering repeated notes and glowing melodies, but it lacked the anchor of powerful main ideas. But the famous Funeral March was beautiful, and Cho made it fresh, with delicately bumpy grace notes like stumbles in the ominous tread. The lyrical second theme was heavenly. The final presto movement was a light-fingered spider web.

Again, in Chopin's Ballade No 2 in F major, Op 38 and the Scherzo No 2 in B-flat minor, Op 31, the big themes lacked body. Cho's rippling octaves and ravishing textures stuck in my mind, but it was not what the composer was trying to say.

The two encores were both a delight - Chopin's Nocturne Op 48 No 1 played with free-flowing elegance, and the Polonaise, in which Cho dug in and released gratifying torrents of sound.