The back half of summer means the Chinese Performing Arts Foundation has again turned the Walnut Hill School into a piano and chamber music festival. The solo piano recitals began Sunday July 26th with the 19-year-old Japanese Aimi Kobayashi, currently a Curtis student. She is a powerhouse. She gave a long all-Chopin recital on a reputedly difficult piano in the small Boswell Recital Hall, and from the getgo the playing was oh-so-loud, exciting, practically note-perfect. She blew the doors off, mostly, although not in the best senses, mostly, even to someone who loves powerful playing. A few moments of repose and grace did occur later on, but were rare, and left one wanting many more.
The program comprised the Rondo Op. 16, Sonata 2, Scherzo 3, four Mazurkas Op. 17, the Prelude Op. 45, the Waltz Op. 34 no .3, and the Heroic Polonaise. The obligatory encore was more Chopin, a Nocturne.
While Kobayashi was not just a banger, almost everywhere the scale loomed as outsized. It was as Olympic gymnastics is to classical ballet. The Waltz was brutal, and not only rhythmically. All this loudness went on largely unrelieved, with no effective control of lightness and featheriness even when she grew more quiet. Until the pieces got shorter, the world of touches and shades, delicate color gradations, lay not just unexplored but seemingly unknown. As always, almost, the encore featured the nicest playing of all: modulated, listened into.
I hesitate to assert that Kobayashi is interpretatively not ready for prime time, as much of this of hers, from a few months ago, sound better, especially at the start. So sure, let us blame the piano. An important pianist veteran in the audience felt that was partly the case.