Sunday, June 7, 2009

Zhang Haochen (Concerto II)

Paul Ingram in the press room said that Zhang Haochen looks like the Asian version of McLovin. Ha ha ha! How did I not see that?

He played Prokofiev's Second, and just like we had with the two Rachmaninov 2s concertos, the two Prokofiev 2s offered up a contrast between an extroverted performance and a more restrained one. Only in this one, the comparison favored the extrovert. Zhang was plenty loud enough, he played with intelligence and great rhythmic verve, and his performance was far more effortless than Son Yeol-eum's. You always got the sense that he had something in reserve. Yet the whole thing left me curiously unroused. He played the scherzo second movement without the humor that we've heard from the other Prokofiev players, and there wasn't much buildup of dramatic momentum. (Granted, that's not the easiest thing in a piece that moves from climax to climax, but Son managed it.) He did finally catch fire at the very end, but the rest of it was lacking the personality that Son brought. Maybe I'm just missing the element of surprise: It was a jolt to find that Son was at home in this concerto, whereas that's not the case with Zhang. Still, this struck me as another of Zhang's not-bad performances. Will that be enough to get him a medal? We'll see.

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