Many talented artists come to the Rockport Chamber Music Festival—and stay. For the weekend, at least.
Under artistic director Barry Shiffman, a sense of community grows around the festival, not only in the audience, but with the musicians themselves. Cristina Zavalloni, Stephen Prutsman, Pieter Wispelwey, Anthony McGill, Benjamin Bowman—all of them and others have come to the Shalin Liu Performance Center to perform multiple times in this summer’s RCMF.
Like pianist Sae Yoon Chon. The 23-year-old South Korean, based in Toronto, comes to RCMF as a highlight of the abbreviated July 4th weekend. He gives a free afternoon recital on Wednesday—Beethoven, Debussy, Liszt, Rachmaninov—repertory he plays on his Dublin International Piano Competition–winning tour. Chon then returns again Saturday evening for a cabaret, and Sunday afternoon for a four-hand version of Schubert’s “Fantasie” with Max Levinson.
Chon spoke from Dublin, his home-away from his home-away from home in Toronto. “The competition arranged quite a lot of concerts in Europe,” he says, “almost every month. So it’s convenient to be here.” He’s never been to the Shalin Liu Performance Center, but Cape Ann has already influenced his programming choices for Wednesday afternoon’s recital.
“When I saw a picture, I thought it was the most beautiful concert hall I had ever seen,” Chon says of Rockport Music’s home. “I imagined the light changing, and I knew I had to play some Debussy preludes. I love them, and the audience always loves them too.” Chon will play three from the set, including the familiar “Girl with the Flaxen Hair.”
Schubert songs—transcribed by Liszt—are also on the program. “I’ve studied with singers in the studio, and I’ve learned so much from playing with the human voice,” he says. “I try to imitate it in my own playing.”
The South Korean works with John O’Conor and James Anagnoson at the Glenn Gould School, as well as with the great Leon Fleisher, a frequent guest to the conservatory. Chon just received his undergraduate degree in performance, and will stay to study for his artist’s diploma. But with multiple competition wins, performances with the Cleveland Orchestra and others, Chon’s career has gotten off to a solid start.
His Wednesday afternoon program begins an abbreviated weekend schedule. On Saturday evening the estimable Takács Quartet plays Mozart (“Dissonance”), Bartok (4th) and Beethoven (third Razumovsky). Trumpeter Jens Lindemann headlines a brass-flavored cabaret that evening as well, and cellist Andrés Díaz and Shiffman join Levinson and Chon for Sunday’s recital. The Rockport Chamber Music Festival continues through July 15. For tickets and program information visit www.rockportmusic.org or call 978-546-7391.
Keith Powers covers music and the arts for GateHouse Media and WBUR’s ARTery. Follow @PowersKeith; email to firstname.lastname@example.org.