It's not every day you hear someone so prodigiously talented it brings a tear to the eye.
American-Japanese pianist Umi Garrett, 13, wowed the audience Friday night with her performance of Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11. The WSO's latest Masterworks concert led by Alexander Mickelthwate featured the young dynamo performing the romantic work rife with tender themes and lush orchestration. The concert's title, simply Umi Plays Chopin, proved apt -- for play she did with all her might, demonstrating a staggering musical gift truly humbling to behold.
Umi first made world headlines after appearing on television's Ellen in 2009, demonstrating party tricks such as playing the piano upside down before knocking off an abridged version of Liszt's Concert âtude: Gnomenreigen. Since then, her many awards and accolades have included first prize at the 13th Osaka International Music Competition as well as the Chopin International Competition, among others.
The young tween now maintains an active concertizing career, performing with orchestras worldwide in addition to presenting solo recitals. A young humanitarian, she even created a special concert series, Kizuna Concert Series, as a way to reach out to those living in Tohoku, Japan, affected by the catastrophic tsunami in 2011.
Confidently striding onstage, Umi immediately tackled the first movement, Allegro maestoso, with a sense of conviction well beyond her tender years. When you hear audience members -- many of them not much older than the young pianist herself -- excitedly whispering, "here she comes!" before she hit the stage, you know a special artist is in the house.
In addition to displaying bravura technique, the young soloist also possesses an extraordinary musicality, shaping each graceful phrase during the Romanze: Larghetto with a fluid rubato and the gentleness of a child's lullaby. At times, the orchestra threatened to engulf her, especially the overeager winds.
She next launched into the Rondo: Vivace that showcased her crisply executed runs, including neatly delivered double thirds and ornamentation. As expected, the audience leapt to its feet with a rousing standing ovation with cries of bravo. In response, Umi then treated her newest fans to a fiery encore of Chopin's âtude Op. 10, No. 4, a short solo filled with pyrotechnics she tossed off as easily as child's play.
It's a given Garrett's artistry will only deepen and grow richer with each coming year. It's hoped we will be hearing her for a long time to come.