California cool

Posted Sunday, Jun. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Sean Chen wasted no time. Take a bow. Sit down. A quick turn of the nob on the piano bench, and the 24-year-old American was immediately into his semifinal recital on Sunday night, a modern piece by Ligeti.

“It bores me when a pianist goes up on stage and sits there for 35, 40 seconds,” he said afteward. “It just looks nervous. The audience feels nervous that way. They not ready to absorb the music. Unless you want that feeling. You you could sit there for a long time then: Bam!

“But my teacher has got me thinking alot about the moment you walk on stage you have to set the mood for what you’re presenting, its a whole show.”

Only with Chen, it doesn’t seem a show at all. It’s not hard to see that a neuroses and nerves accompany many Cliburn competitors on stage. Not he. He seems totally chill.

“I’m Californian,” he said. What’s more, “I enjoy being on stage. If you’ve got an empty stage, I’ll go up there and play.”

There could not be more different pieces of music than what he played first on Sunday. Ligeti is, in his words, “caustic, but it’s really cool.” The Brahms Variations on an Original Theme, was soothing.

“I love all different types of music, especially stuff that’s really good and people don’t play like the Brahms variantions,” he said. “I’ve heard students play it, but I’ve never heard people play it live in concert. It’s a beautiful work and its hard to pull off.

“It’s like warm and fuzzy, Brahms when he’s not feeling unfulfilled and he’s kind of in his happy place.”

Tim Madigan, 817-390-7544 Twitter: @tsmadigan

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