Last night Shirley and I attended one of those free concerts at Pomona College that I keep raving about. This one featured the work of Professor Genevieve Feiwen Lee who I also keep raving about. Finally I was able to understand how she became such a fine and versatile pianist. Practice, lots of practice. In fact, my initial reading of her bio in last night’s program led me to believe that she has had five centuries of practice.
A versatile performer of music spanning five centuries, Genevieve Feiwen Lee has dazzled audiences on the piano, harpsichord, toy piano, keyboard, and electronics.
On more careful reading and in context, I don’t think this is really as ambiguous as my first reading led me to believe. And she looks so young.
Professor Lee began her program on the harpsichord playing a suite by François Couperin (1668-1733). She then moved to the piano for Debussy’s 1903 Estampes followed by Brahms’ Klavierstücke. We particularly enjoyed the rhapsody but who wouldn’t.
During the intermission the concert grand piano was replace by a toy piano for Tom’ Flaherty’s “Shepard’s Pi” for toy piano and electronics. We heard this piece when Lee preformed it at its premier and wrote about it at the time.
While having its own meditative moments, Professor Lee’s performance of Flaherty’s “Shepard’s Pi” (2010) for toy piano (and computer) was quite amazing as well as amusing. Even the title amused us. Lee seems to love the toy piano and plays it with the same precision, control, and flair that she brings to the concert grand. And given its limited range, she gets almost as much out of it. The interaction between the live performance and the pre-recorded toy piano accompaniment produced some wonderful effects and the whole thing tied together in a very satisfying way.
That opinion hasn’t change in the least.
The program ended with Lee and her toy piano surrounded by a collection of noise making gadgets for her rendition of Ge Gan-ru’s “Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!” (2006). This was wonderfully entertaining. However, the poem Lee preformed to the accompaniment of the toy ensemble is a bit of a downer. While tragedy was evident in Lee’s performance, the good news was that it was in Chinese so Shirley and I didn’t really understand it until we read the translation.