As part of the Protégé Series, 13-year-old American pianist Umi Garrett, a soloist recipient of the Mastroianni Founders Award, thrilled those in attendance playing the Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1, conducted by Bradley Ellingboe. Had one listened blindfolded, one could have easily concluded this was a seasoned professional. Indeed, she played with a grace and sensitivity far beyond her years, well deserving of the honor Young Steinway Artist.
Getting all the right notes in place (no easy feat in itself) is only the beginning. With Chopin especially, the challenge is to turn what is technically a percussion instrument into a vehicle of singing lyric beauty and allow the poetry to soar.
The middle Romance-Larghetto glowed with a sympathetic tenderness. She also had power when she needed it, from the stentorian chords that introduce the piano. The stretto leading to the recapitulation in the Allegro maestoso was an electric fury of perfectly-articulated runs. Finally the Rondo sparkled like freshly-opened champagne joyfully free of its confines.
It was followed by the most boisterous standing ovation, bringing Garrett back for an encore, Chopin’s Nocturne Op. Posth No. 20 in C Sharp Minor.