Lu Delivers Masterful Chopin Performance

Colin Roshak, Staff Writer

Since graduating from the Conservatory in 2006, pianist Tian Lu has traveled around the world honing her craft. This past week, she returned to Oberlin to perform a recital consisting entirely of works by the influential Polish composer Frédéric Chopin. Lu received her undergraduate degree as well as Artist Diploma from the Conservatory under the tutelage of Professor of Piano Monique Duphil and her master’s degree from the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, where she studied with Boris Slutsky and Leon Fleischer.

Chopin’s works, all 230 of which include piano, contain some of the most technically demanding yet haunting beautiful music in the standard repertoire. Although trained in the style of German masters such as Beethoven and Mozart, Chopin was strongly influenced by the music of his Polish homeland. His harmonic textures are thick and his melodic language is eloquent and unmistakable. An entire recital program of Chopin’s works is no easy task, but Lu was able to handle it with elegance and unrelenting technical prowess.

The concert began with a short scherzo in B minor that juxtaposed boisterous chords and virtuosic scale patterns with slower, more lyrical moments. Lu played maturely and phrased with an unfaltering sense of legato. The next piece on the program, a nocturne in B major, conjured a feeling of melancholic homesickness with Lu’s sensitive touch on the keyboard. Each phrase felt entirely organic and expertly paced. The rest of the first half of the program, consisting of two different etudes, a barcarolle and a brilliantly flashy polonaise, flew by.

The most satisfying moment of the evening came at the beginning of the second half of the program. Each of four segments of Mazurkas, Op. 17 had its own distinct character. The first was noble, the second more reflective. Lu really found her stride with the third mazurka, completely dis0pelling the feeling of monotony in the music with her magical interpretation. It began with a short, heartfelt theme, which returned many times. Lu’s flawless sense of rubato allowed for each repeat to hit harder. The final mazurka of the set moved slowly and peacefully with occasional interjections of a very whimsical melody. The music slowed until the last few quiet chords died away.

Following the stunning mazurkas was the largest single piece on the program, Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor. The four movements blazed by in a flurry of fingers in full flight. The second movement, Scherzo: Molto vivace, was filled with breathtaking virtuosity and the third movement, Largo, was severe and tragic. Although performed exceptionally well, the sonata felt out of place in a program populated by short character pieces.

Incredibly, after such a demanding rendition, Lu returned for one final piece — a short berceuse. The charming lullaby captured the audience and ended the evening with a touching mood.

Lu played superbly throughout the entire twohour marathon, never missing out on a chance for musicality and expression. It’s clear that in the years since she has left the Conservatory, she has taken the first steps in a long and successful performance career.