Kennedy Center for the Arts, Millenium Stage
Saturday. July 31. 2010

“Classical Music Rocks!!!”

One more time I want to extend my most heart-felt thanks to the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center for injecting some attractive live music in Washington during this culturally lackluster summer. This evening, it was the International Young Artist Piano Competition which was presenting its young prodigies, and when I say young I mean between the ages of 7 and 18. Founded by Li-Ly Chang in 1986, its goal is not only to encourage budding musicians to work on their craft, but also to build a bridge between Western and Eastern cultures. Accordingly, today we heard all Chinese students (or of Chinese descent) performing Western and Chinese pieces.

The seven young artists were appearing on the stage from the youngest to the oldest, and seeing how much of a difference even a couple of years can make was as interesting as astounding. The first pianist was 7-year old Gloria Cai, who was resplendent in her bright red dress and her sparkling silver shoes. Non-plussed by the large audience, she delivered her short Mozart piece with endearing graciousness.

One funny thing to notice was that as the skills became more and more pronounced and nuanced with the performer’s age, and the biographies predictably more impressive, the outfits turned out to be more subtle and sophisticated too, all the way to the delicately bead-embedded black dress donned by 17-year old Sangmi Yoon. Her Capriccio by Li-Ly Chang was fun and infectious.

Among this rainbow of colors (each female musician had a different color dress), 14-year old Michael Mei stood out as not only the only male of the group, but also the most remarkable musician of them all. His treatment of Chopin’s Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise clearly demonstrated solid talent and unflappable poise, and has been one of my summer’s highlights so far.

Kennedy Center reviews from Isabelle