Winston Choi | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Like all the pianists in Northwestern University's Transcendental Piano Series, Winston Choi will perform some of the most technically daunting works composed for the instrument. Choi, who's studied with Menahem Pressler and is now studying with Ursula Oppens, is best known for playing new music. He's already won the 2002 Orleans International 20th-Century Piano Competition in France, had many works dedicated to him, and recorded the complete piano music of Elliott Carter--impressive and clearly articulated performances in which one can hear every musical line. He's also recorded Brian Ferneyhough's Lemma-Icon-Epigram (1981), which he'll play this week at Lutkin Hall. Ferneyhough is the preeminent composer in the "new complexity" style, which places enormous physical demands on performers and is deliberately difficult to read. It's not easy listening either. The frenetic beginning of Lemma-Icon-Epigram is all over the piano, with sudden repeated notes, quick trills, and short clusters, and the rhythmic propulsion gives it an avant-garde jazz feel. Choi brilliantly maintains the connections as the music shifts from single pitches to tone clusters to chordal playing, and plays with a freshness that makes the music sound newly improvised. "Almost everything is unattainable," he says, "but it is the quest to accomplish what is not humanly possible that provides the inner tension necessary for this piece." His recital will also include several short works by contemporary composer Jaques Lenot; Szymanowski's accessible, romantic 12 Etudes, op. 33 (1917); Scriabin's Sonata no. 5 (1907); and Berio's piano sonata from 2001, his final work. The Berio, which Choi describes as an "emotional tour de force," has yet to be recorded. Thu 1/13, 7:30 PM, Lutkin Hall, Northwestern University, 700 University, Evanston, 847-467-4000 or 847-491-5441, $8.50.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Chad Johnston.

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