It's not that Saturday night's program notes were inaccurate. For Yin Cheng-Zong is most certainly "the foremost pianist of the People's Republic of China." The program notes, though, might just as well have called Mozart "a prominent Salzburg composer" or Liszt "a man who wrote piano music." But then how does one actually explain the gargantuan musical talent that stunned Saturday's audience at George Mason University's Harris Theatre?
Indeed, the artist himself, after performing Mozart's Sonata No. 10 in C, K. 330, Schubert's Four Impromptus, Op. 90 and Liszt's B Minor Sonata, attempted explaining to the audience, in a brief question-and-answer session, how a child prodigy from China grows up to become a premier interpreter of western piano music.
Not even Yin's own explanations, though, did justice to his brilliant rendition of the Mozart: a deliberately economic and conservatively paced performance in the essential sense of the classic tradition. He then delivered an exquisite performance of the Schubert pieces, brilliantly playing a bright, technically volatile Second Impromptu after playing a First Impromptu that consists of slow, large chordal themes alternating with single-note themes.
Some pianists have built careers avoiding Liszt, but Yin proved himself a Liszt specialist with his performance of the ferociously ambitious B Minor Sonata. The occasional sour-grapes claim that this work is mere pyrotechnics and gymnastics was put to rest by an artist who masterfully integrated the works' romantic and antiromantic elements. The indefatigable Yin then performed three encores: his own Chinese Folk Dance, Chopin's Nocturne in C-sharp Minor and Liszt's Tarantella. -- Louis J. Wasser Toure Kunda
The intricate rhythms of African drums opened and closed Toure Kunda's Saturday performance at Heritage Hall, but for most of the show the Toure brothers' traditional West African sound was just one ingredient in a heady stew also spiced with American, Caribbean and European pop styles. Indeed, the three Toures were outnumbered by seven backup musicians and singers who added such western textures as electric guitar, synthesizer and saxophone.
Except for a few jarring solos and squawks from the keyboardist, the supplementary musicians provided a sympathetic and skillful expansion of the trio's sound. Still, it was the exuberant singing and drumming of the Senegal-born, Paris-based Toures that kept the dance floor packed.
As if to underscore that, the final encore abandoned the electric instruments for the stark sound of unaccompanied voices and drums, providing the evening's most evocative moment.