Pianist Young-Ah Tak

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Young-Ah Tak
CALVIN KNIGHT | THE LEDGER
GUEST PIANIST YOUNG-AH TAK takes a bow with the
Imperial Symphony Orchestra's conductor/music director
Mark Thielen after Tuesday's performance at The Lakeland Center.

Tak's Star Shines in Concert With Orchestra

Imperial Symphony shows its growth with guest pianist on Tuesday.
The Ledger
By Cary McMullen
November 11, 2010

New York Concert Review view the PDF verson   New York Concert Review original link

A new star has risen in Lakeland.

With her performance of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 on Tuesday with the Imperial Symphony Orchestra, Young-ah Tak demonstrated beyond doubt that she has a bright future as a concert pianist. Tak gave a brilliant performance of the fiendishly demanding concerto, awing audience and orchestra alike.

The Youkey Theatre was about two-thirds full for a performance worthy of even the most prestigious concert hall.

And although the Tchaikovsky piece was certainly the highlight of the night, the concert underscored the Imperial Symphony's ongoing development. Its accompaniment of Tak, as well as its performance of Beethoven's "Egmont" Overture and Ottorino Respighi's "The Pines of Rome" left a delightful impression.

This was the first appearance with the Imperial Symphony for Tak, who is assistant professor of music at Southeastern University in Lakeland. A graduate of Juilliard and the New England Conservatory of Music and a student of Leon Fleisher at the Peabody Institute, Tak's technique throughout the Tchaikovsky concerto was impeccable.

The massive concerto is notable for Tchaikovsky's extensive use of rapid-fire runs consisting of chords rather than single notes, adding a layer of difficulty. Tak displayed confidence and clarity in these passages from first to last. There was a lot of power in those slender fingers.

A couple of missed notes near the beginning were only a moment's distraction, as was a cracked note from the horns in the opening measure.

In this concerto, the orchestra gives voice to the melodies while the soloist supplies the variations. For the most part, conductor Mark Thielen and the orchestra held up their part of the dialogue and coordinated well with Tak.

What made Tak's performance most notable was her grasp of the spirit of the concerto. She did an exceptional job of expressing the passion and the lyricism that imbues all of Tchaikovsky's works.

It would be easy to overlook in her rendition of the fast passages, but Tak showed sensitivity and nuance even in those sections.

However, in her thrilling playing of the second-to-last run in the finale, the power and passion combined in hair-raising fashion.

She received a standing ovation and a curtain call and deserved a second.

The orchestra got the opportunity to stretch its legs with Respighi's "Pines," a colorful symphonic poem that expresses four contrasting moods in scenes from the Eternal City.

The first scene is the most difficult for its complex rhythms and its chaotic depiction of a street scene. The orchestra negotiated it well, with the horns and low brass especially coming through on some demanding passages.

The tranquil third scene was notable particularly for principal clarinetist Ann Satterfield's evocative solos.

In the rousing final scene, meant to portray the approach of a Roman legion on the Appian Way, Thielen did a good job of leading the orchestra from a soft beginning up to a powerful finale. The effect was amplified by the placement of a small brass section in the balcony.

The orchestra was impressive in its ability to handle the shift in dynamics from soft to fortissimo. The Imperial Symphony demonstrated that it is capable of a full sound that one hears from professional orchestras.

Some of that power was a bit lacking in the opening work of the evening, the "Egmont" Overture. The pacing and tempo in the triumphant concluding section were suitably dramatic, but the volume seemed a bit below par.

Still, Thielen and the orchestra gave a satisfactory rendition of a familiar and heroic work.

In a few places, the orchestra struggled with precision in playing together, but it showed that it is capable of playing well in demanding works of the standard symphonic repertoire.