I admit I was curious to hear how one could perform a piano recital consisting entirely of music by Sergei Prokofiev. But I, like everyone else in the audience at the Xavier Piano Series today, walked away simply blown away by Frederic Chiu’s inspired virtuosity.
I use the word inspired because this was never empty virtuosity. It was technically dazzling but it was also thoughtful playing. Even though Prokofiev is considered to be both a fiendishly difficult and a percussive composer by those who know his piano music, Chiu made us think about the many sides of this composer with his insightful playing as well as with his well-prepared remarks.
There was plenty of fire, but Chiu’s touch was never harsh and he always illuminated the underlying musical line. His program included Prokofiev’s Sonatas Nos. 3 and 4, as well as the oft-played blockbuster Sonata No. 7. I have to say that I have never heard it played with such artistry or sincerity.
For the more melodic side of Prokofiev, Chiu offered wonderful selections from “Romeo and Juliet,” with several movements — “Morning Serenade” and a fleet “Public Merrymaking” — of his own arrangement. There were also three pieces from his own arrangement for piano of the “Lieutenant Kije” Suite.
If it all seemed like an impossible endurance test, Chiu hardly broke a sweat as he tackled phenomenal challenges up and down the keyboard, his hands a blur, barely moving in his chair.
For an encore, he dazzled once again with an impossibly fast “Suggestion Diabolique.” Diabolical, indeed.
Let’s hope he returns to Cincinnati again, and soon.