SCRUTINY | Jarred Dunn Warms Up Kingston Audience

By Meg Freer on January 24, 2023

Jarred Dunn (Photo courtesy of the artist)
Jarred Dunn (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Chopin: Mazurkas Op. 50 & 56 / Brahms: Sonata for Violin and Piano in G Major, Op. 78; Jarred Dunn, piano; Jeanel Liang Violin. Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, Jan. 16, 2023.

Highly acclaimed Montréal-based pianist Jarred Dunn performed a solo and chamber music recital with Montréal violinist Jeanel Liang for a rapt audience in Kingston, Ontario’s Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts on January 16, 2023.

The two sets of Chopin Mazurkas, Op. 50 and Op. 56, that comprised the first half of the recital were just delightful — unique and slightly unusual interpretations in places that brought out the traditional mazurka rhythms and inner voices without being affected about it or drawing too much attention to those features. These are more introverted pieces, unlike many of Chopin’s Mazurkas. In Mr. Dunn’s words, for him they “contain Chopin’s innermost monologues.”

Mr. Dunn plays in a relaxed style but with a high level of fine-motor control, keeping his hands fairly close to the keyboard. He has what I call “Chopin” hands — with long, slender fingers — and like a good organist, he easily maintains a sustained legato. His pedalling in this performance was exquisite — so unobtrusive as to be almost invisible.

There is a particular style of playing Chopin, popular in the nineteenth century but less so now, which creates slight asynchrony between the left and right hand parts. With some performers, it sounds eccentric or contrived and disturbs the musical flow, but a skilled musician can produce heightened, sensuous phrasing and create unexpected rhythmic emphases similar to a style common in some jazz piano playing. Mr. Dunn managed to incorporate asynchrony in such an elegant and subtle way, and with such refined control of phrasing, that it enhanced the harmonies and didn’t intrude at all.

Jeanel Liang, who joined Mr. Dunn in the second half for Brahms’ Sonata for Violin and Piano in G Major, Op. 78, earned my sincere praise for her beautiful tone, effortless bow control and overall musicality. The pair’s well-coordinated performance was not only sensitive, but also dramatic in all the right places without being too showy — an ideal performance of a rather understated piece of chamber music.

If you have a chance to attend a recital with either one or both of these excellent performers, I highly recommend going. They will draw you into the music in a most sublime way.

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