PARKER PERFORMANCE DAZZLES - The Coast Reporter November 04, 2005

The eagerly-awaited classical music recital return by the highly-acclaimed Burnaby-born pianist Ian Parker took place Sunday at the Raven’s Cry Theatre in Sechelt.

From the early notes of the Muzio Clementi sparkling Piano Sonata through the closing reverberating carillon bells of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, the guest held his full house music enthusiasts spellbound by the magic and elegance of his beautiful music making.

Parker’s well-crafted program, presented by the Coast Recital Society, embraced works by Clementi, Franz Schubert, Maurice Ravel and Mussorgsky spanning almost 200 years of absorbing musical creation.

He played Clementi’s Sonata Opus sensitively with polished phrasing and subtle variations of tone colour. In Maurice Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit, if he set out deliberately to compose music of transcendental virtuosity, he certainly succeeded.

His portrait of Scarbo, an envoy for the prince of darkness, a section which has been referred to as a triumph of unfaltering barbarity, is considered to be one of the most technically difficult in all the piano repertoire. This is also an intensely poetic work so it is up to the pianist to bring out all the colour and poetry Ravel wrote into the score. Parker succeeded admirably in this, with playing invariably characterized by warmth, passion and impeccable clarity.

Mussorgsky’s Pictures was played by Parker with great sensitivity and strength. There was a real sense of progression in the recurring Promenades with the feeling that the exhibition-goer was truly moved and affected by these pictures.

The Schubert lieder transcriptions by Liszt featured inexhaustibly varied melodies, the exclusive property of this Austrian composer, echoing every mood or feeling of human experience. The writing of Gretchen am Spinnrade (Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel), at the age of 17, marking the birth of the lied, and the lighthearted Auf dem Wasser zu singen (the soul glides upon the water) were colourfully handled by this gifted pianist. For his encore, Parker offered one of the more lyrical of Frederic Chopin’s 51 Polish Mazurkas, Opus 17, no. 4.

The inaugural pre-concert chat with Parker proved to be an unqualified success due in large part to his innate ability to communicate knowledgeably with his listeners, blending an inveterate lighthearted sense of humour with true-to-life experiences.

- Ross Brougham