The third of our community concert series for this season was an amazing evening. I felt awed at the virtuosity of this 16-year-old Canadian pianist - truly felt as though I was in the presence of genius. At 60 myself, 16 just seems astoundingly young to have so much understanding and so many notes in one slight teenage body. His playing seemed other-worldly to me, unearthly, like water flowing endlessly down some hillside in heaven.
Back in the day, we used to say of some of our local pianists, "He (or she) has a nice touch." I don't know if that's still a descriptor for pianists, but Lisiecki's "touch" seemed to me sublime. He taught us carefully and formally (without a mic) before each piece what the significance of the piece had been to the composer and what we should listen for. But then when he sat down and began to play (after a long "centering" silence) everything seemed to become almost impossibly light. Not that he couldn't be forceful - he could rock the loud parts - but even there I could barely sense a whisper of effort. It was as though the keys and the instrument and his fingers and brain were all one.
I've been awed before by the skill of very good pianists, but usually have a sense of practise, practise and lots of effort and professionalism and experience, and although I have no doubt that Jan Lisiecki practises as much as anyone, all I could think of when he was playing was that it was some kind of miracle.
He chose beautiful pieces, starting each half of the program with a short and simple Bach Prelude and Fugue and then "lettin' her rip" with Beethoven, Liszt and Mendelssohn and finishing off the concert with 12 Etudes by Chopin. My favourite of the concert was Variations Sieriuses, Op. 54 in D Minor by Mendelssohn. This was divided into three parts called (approximately) Lament, Light (or Lightness) and Sigh. All beautiful.
We felt absolutely blessed to have been able to hear and see this young man play. He has played all around the world and for the Queen, and I think only the quick work of community concert chair Yvonne Topf, when she first saw him on CBC two years ago, brought him out to Kelowna on a snowy February night to play for 800 grey-haired patrons. I fear for his schedule - besides many concerts, he is studying for a Bachelor of Music in Toronto - but he seems very calm and maybe this is just what he loves to do. Lucky us.