The Lakewood Cultural Center has started its 2022-2023 season with the sounds of childhood, despair and trouble through the genius works of Schumann, Beethoven and Liszt, and the graceful hands of pianist Daniel Hsu.
“I think music should be felt, and I think that’s my real goal, my mission: to make others experience things that they normally wouldn't,” said Hsu after his Sept. 29 Lakewood concert. A packed theater awaited him as he began with Scenes from Childhood by Robert Schumann, before moving on to Sonata No.31 in A-flat Major by Ludwig van Beethoven.
For this piece, he said Beethoven “writes the sounds of sobbing…,” and true to his description, Hsu played its simple and direct melodies with tragedy in mind. Tension hung on every note that Hsu played, silence portraying the despair and grief throughout as poignantly as the sharp notes themselves.
The Schumann, which brought out Hsu’s skill of highlighting every singular tone, savoring every moment of silence in between for the feeling of pressure that it deserves, is where Hsu said he feels most comfortable.
“I just tend to like slow more. The Schumann is kind of my home comfort territory, I just feel most comfortable,” he explained. And it showed.
A native of San Francisco Bay Area, Daniel Hsu, 25, has toured Europe, Asia and North America, with upcoming performances with the Hamilton Philharmonic by Toronto, the Eugene Symphony in Eugene, Oregon, and the Jacksonville Symphony in Florida.
Finishing the program was Franz Liszt’s Sonata in B Minor, a notable departure form the previous two pieces, with Liszt’s style not lending to Hsu’s accentuation of silence, but paired on purpose Hsu said. The piece tells of a “character finding its way through despair and trouble,” Hsu described, continuing the more sublime, despairing feelings from Beetoven’s Sonata just before.
These pieces were chosen specifically by Hsu as well.
“What I’m really feeling, what I want to play is constantly evolving, constantly changing. Obviously I love all this music, I don’t play things on stage I don’t love because I feel someone else should do that,” he explained after his performance. “These pieces all mean a lot to me and mean specific things. At one point, these were the only pieces I wanted to play. Now, some time has passed, and I want to explore other things.”
In the audience for the first concert at the Cultural Center was Emily Gambone and her daughter Aria, 9. She wanted to show her daughter what was possible, as Aria had begun learning to play classical piano in January. They enjoyed the show, with Aria waiting afterwards to tell Hsu that she “admires him.”
The Lakewood Cultural Center’s season continues with acapella quartet Kings Return on Oct. 15, and SALT Contemporary Dance performing on Oct. 29.
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