Curtain Call: Lin is a violent beauty

By Joseph Pratt

April 10, 2014

By Joseph Pratt


Pianist Jenny Lin performed as an instillation in the Southern Ohio Performing Arts Association’s (SOPAA) programming. She is second to last, with “West Wide Story” wrapping up this season on April 21.

Lin told the audience that she has been working on the programming for “The Composer-Pianist: The Art of Transcriptions and Arrangements” for a year and that she has aimed to create the sound of an entire orchestra from one piano.

Before attending the show, friend and director of the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts (VRCFA) Joe Patti told me of how impressed I would be by Lin and said that I wouldn’t believe that all of the music was being created by her alone.

I was hesitant, knowing I would be listening to a singular performer for over an hour play classical music. Not that I dislike classics, Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” is my favorite song of all time and I’m typically listening to it in the newsroom while I edit my work. However, whenever I attend a solo performance, I tend to zone out and count lighting fixtures. I did not do so even once during Lin’s performance.

When Lin sat at her piano bench, she seemed possessed by the instrument; there were times she would use such force to play that she was lifting herself off the piano bench and there were times she almost appeared to sink into the 88 keys of the piano. There is a definite violent beauty present in the way Jenny Lin plays the piano.

Lin opened with an arrangement of Bach’s Chaconne in D-minor, which was composed for the violin. This piece really expressed her talent and her range and was perfect to open with. Not to mention, the length of it allowed everyone to get settled in before she moved on with the show.

I, personally, fell in love when she performed an arrangement of Stravinsky’s “L’oiseau de feu,” which was performed with such speed and accuracy that it was actually a joy to watch her pound out the complicated notes. Lin moved so quickly you could barely make out her movements; it was all a blur of motion. Her arms were steady and her movements and fingers were quick during this number.

Lin appeared to capture the audience’s attention most when she performed an arrangement of “Eliza in Ascot” from “My Fair Lady,” when an otherwise silent crowd erupted in cheers after her performance.

Another notable point in her performance was when she took on the challenge of performing the orchestration of many Broadway classic tunes. I had to look past the elderly couple in front of me who were talking and guessing the tunes as she was playing them. Bad theatre etiquette is a major pet peeve of mine, but what they were doing was forgivable, because it honestly melted my heart.

When Lin began performing “Hello, Young Lovers,” the elderly lady in front of me proudly announced the title of the song to her husband. He simply replied with “Yes, we are,” and then kissed her cheek.

It might seem out of place to mention this in a column about Lin’s performance, but I think it is a testament to how powerful her voice is with a piano. The nostalgia and general good feelings she evoked with her fierce piano playing seemed to affect everyone around me.

Lin is a perfect example of the entertainment values of classical music and how recitals can evoke almost anything but boring apathy.

Joseph Pratt can be contacted at the Portsmouth Daily Times 740-353-3101, EXT 287, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.