Petite pianist brings heavy sound to 'muscle concerto'

By Roger McBain (Contact)
Thursday, April 26, 2007

Jung Lin is a petite pianist whose waist barely reaches the top of the gleaming concert grand she leans against in a publicity picture.

Make no mistake, however, she can play like a heavyweight, says Glenn Roberts.

Roberts is executive director for the Evansville Philharmonic, the orchestra with whom Lin will play Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 in The Victory Saturday.

Roberts didn't know what to expect when he first saw her, several years ago, as she prepared to play Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic.

"When I first saw her diminutive size, you just have to wonder," recalls Roberts. "The Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto has probably one of the most famous openings of all piano concertos, with huge chords in all of the registers of the piano."

All doubts exploded when she attacked the piece, however. Using her back, shoulders and arms, "she was able to leverage all the power out of that instrument," says Roberts.

"She came in, and she just dazzled everybody."

She'll need all her leverage for the Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 3, says Alfred Savia, the orchestra's music director. "The Rach 3 you sort of think of as a muscle concerto," says the conductor.

"It's a big muscular concerto traditionally. You need a very big sound, playing with a big orchestra and a lot of very big chords."

Savia already heard about Lin from his own manager, Tom Parker, before Roberts ever suggested her for the concerto. Since then he's heard from another conductor in New Mexico who's booked her for next season, says Savia.

"Everybody's just raving about her."

They have been most of her life. At 12 Lin was conducting her own orchestral works in her native Taiwan, winning competitions and being featured on national news. She moved to the United States, graduating with honors from New York's Juilliard School, where her symphonic poem, "The Black Wedding," premiered. Her "Sonatine" premiered in Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall.

She has performed in recital and with orchestras in Asia, Europe and North America, earning glowing reviews along the way.

Saturday's all-Russian concert will include the overture from Mikhail Glinka's "Rulan and Ludmilla," Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" Suite and Igor Stravinsky's "Firebird" Suite.