Pui Wang (Leo) Choi’s Senior Piano Recital 

The winner of Oberlin’s 2021 Senior Concerto Competition, Leo Choi, held his Senior Recital on May 7th at Warner Concert Hall. He played Beethoven, Chopin, Ravel, and Hurel. After Choi performed, he must have been exhausted, but he looked as fresh as a daisy. His contrasting powerful and soft feathery sound filled the concert hall. 

All of his pieces on the program are well-known pieces for pianists. They need to focus on technical problems and emotion controlling and understanding the flow of the phrasing. However, Choi’s ardor for performance with his clear and neat sound fully demonstrated his qualifications as a concert pianist. 

Choi began Beethoven’s Sonata No. 28 with a warm and cozy opening. He looked as if he were flying against the wind on a cloud. The audience moved along with his body as he played the melody. The most striking part was the contrast between loud and soft sounds. This is the most important challenge in playing Beethoven’s works, and he played with careful and solid touch. 

Choi showed his powerful and skillful technique during the second movement. He also brought out the changing mood from a quiet atmosphere to the bouncy march. He demonstrated his splendid technique during the fast scales sections and he played the ending with energy and passion.

After the Beethoven, Choi moved on to play Chopin’s well-known Sonata no. 3. There are many opinions about how this piece should be played, and while you may disagree with the performer’s interpretation, Choi’s performance was characteristically Chopin with his contrast between grandeur and softness and the singing quality of his melody. 

The virtuoso pianist, Liszt, said, “Chopin’s character is composed of a thousand shades which in crossing one another become so disguised as to be indistinguishable.” Based on what Liszt said, it was hard to express Chopin’s original feeling of the pieces. However, Choi’s enthusiastic playing with his interpretation of poetic virtuosity was overwhelming. 

While talking with Choi, he said music is language. Musicians should not only play the instruments but think about which story they want to share with their audience. He applied this thoughts to his performance of Ravel’s La Valse. One of the most difficult pieces in the repertoire, it contains all the complexity, softness, and techniques found in contemporary music. It has a lot of glissando skills, which is sliding the finger from the top of the keyboard to the bottom. Choi controlled that as well as the work’s very fast tempo. 

The soft but wild opening was joyful to hear, and the rhythmic expression was exciting. Choi obviously enjoyed the music itself. His playing was free and unbound, expressing all of the musical elements in Ravel’s score. Never losing tension, his sound was magnificent to the very end. 

The most interesting performance of the recital was the first movement of Tombeau: In Memorian Gerard Grisey by Philippe Hurrel with percussionist Thomas Li. The work calls for many percussion instruments, so before the performance, setting up took forever, as the instruments kept coming from behind the stage. 

To put his last piece in one word, it was chaos. Every part sounds like it doesn’t make sense to play piano and percussions simultaneously, but they kept good eye-contact, matching each other’s timing and expressing the dynamics together. Choi said, “playing with percussion is always fun and chaotic. The rhythmic part is difficult, and they have so many instruments, so I will need to memorize their sound.” Even though the piece is complicated, Choi enjoyed playing very much and the piece ended his recital successfully.                                                                                                                                                                                                     

It was not just a senior recital. With the fabulous piano, Choi performed an excellent concert. He showed all of his confidence and passion, delivering it to the audience. Everyone who was there was proud of him and clapped for what felt like an eternity.

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