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Imagination Fuels Pianist Sung Chang

Nathan Cone
Sung Chang, at rehearsal on November 27, 2018 at Laurel Heights UMC.

Pianist Sung Chang first drew the attention of San Antonio audiences in 2016, when he was awarded the silver medal at the San Antonio International Piano Competition (now known as The Gurwitz International Piano Competition). Since then, he’s returned to the Alamo City nearly a half-dozen times.

“I like the city… and especially the audiences,” Chang said after performing for the Tuesday Musical Club on November 27. “They are always very warm.”

Chang revisited one of his competition pieces at that recital, Enrique Granados’ “Eight Poetic Waltzes.”

“It’s not technically very hard, but you need more imagination,” Chang said of the music. Granados also doesn’t so much evoke the Spanish melodies as the sunny atmosphere of the country, said Chang.

[Hear an excerpt in the SoundCloud window below]

Chang’s program also included music by Bach, Beethoven and Schubert, and concluded with Maurice Ravel’s “La Valse,” written during the aftermath of World War I. Its form and structure have been interpreted as a metaphor for the decay of Europe following that conflict, and Chang said growing up in a divided Korea, he could relate to the composer’s feelings. He said that growing up, the conflict between the two halves of his country was bitter. At his Tuesday Musical Club concert, Chang explained that he programmed “La Valse” as a prayer for peace, both the final moment on the program as well as on his album "Aleph," of which he donates 20% of the sales to UNICEF.

Sung Chang is based in Los Angeles with his wife, Esther Lee, who’s finishing her DMA at the University of Southern California. Although she finds herself busy teaching most of the time, Chang said he hopes the two of them will be able to perform more duo concerts in the future.

You can hear Sung Chang's entire recital as part of Texas Public Radio's "Performance Saturday" on Saturday, December 8 at 7 p.m. on KPAC 88.3 FM and KTXI 90.1 FM.