Review: Grace Fong's Grand Encounter

Jun Iwasaki and Grace Fong

5 stars

APA Grand Encounter Series; Indiana History Center; March 6.

Sunday afternoon’s IHC Basile

Theater was nearly full for the American Pianists Association’s

first Grand Encounter Series program of 2011. Even ISO conductor

laureate Raymond Leppard was in attendance. And he surely couldn’t

have been more gratified to be greeted by Grace Fong (she spoke,

introducing us to the program before playing), the most startling

pianistic talent to emerge as an APA Fellow (one of two in 2009)

since the series relocated here from New York in the 1980s.

Of her appearances here since her

Fellowship award — one a solo recital at Butler, another a

concerto performance with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra —

she has continued to mesmerize us with her uncanny control of all

facets of keyboard technique and musicianship. This time, however,

she brought along her husband, Jun Iwasaki — a top-tiered

violinist, and we heard basically a duo recital, ranging through a

wide variety of styles. From Scriabin and Rachmaninoff, we

experienced two Latin-based dances and a piece called “Tin Pan

Alley,” all by Cleveland-based Paul Schoenfield, then Ravel’s

Violin Sonata and last, as well as “most”: Beethoven’s

“Kreutzer” Sonata.

I’m always astonished to hear

what Fong’s keyboard work gives to me: a perfect sense of

touch, fingerwork, trilling, chordal exchanges and pedaling,

unimpeded by technical challenges or tempo limits to make it through

obstacles without slips. Moreover, Fong senses what the music

needs—and it just happens.

Well, her musical and marital partner

also greatly impresses. Iwasaki’s tone and technique belong in

the top tier of any year’s International Violin Competition of

Indianapolis’ finalists. That the pair produced as good a

“Kreutzer” as I’ve heard easily applies to the rest

of their program. Bring them back — at least bring Fong back.


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