ONE of the most innovative pianists playing world stages today, Lubomyr Melnyk creates complex layers of sound that rise and fall like ocean waves.
On October 19, Split Works and Shanghai Symphony Orchestra’s partnership series, “Contemporale,” returns with a concert by this Ukrainian artist at Shanghai Symphony Hall.
Classically trained and greatly affected by the minimalist movement in the early 1970s, Melnyk developed his own language for the piano, the “continuous piano” technique, so named because it maintains a continuous, unbroken stream of sound — quite a contrast to minimalism.
This highly melodic form uses extremely rapid notes and note-series to create a dense and lush tapestry of sound.
The artist’s complex note patterns and speeds make his music all but impossible for the normal pianist. The kinetic athleticism of a Melnyk performance is utterly unique. His focus is on the actual sound of the piano as much as the harmonies and melodies of the music.
His virtuoso piano technique forms overtones that blend, collide or even create new melodies, shaping his compositions beyond their original forms. These compositions will carry the audience to new realms, and to witness one of his live performances is nothing short of a magical experience.
Through the 1970s and 1980s, Melnyk released a number of solo piano and ensemble works on the Bandura label while at the same time composed a huge repertoire that was rarely heard until the CD reissue of “KMH: Piano in the Continuous Mode” on the Unseen Worlds label in 2007. Audio Review had called the original 1979 release of KMH “one of the ten most important albums of modern music.”
In what has amounted to a stunning comeback, Melnyk released solo albums on Hinterzimmer, Unseen Worlds and Erased Tapes labels last year, as well as a highly acclaimed duo album with guitarist James Blackshaw.
The first concert in the “Contemporale” series, a collaboration between Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and Split Works, was performed by Canadian poet pianist Moonface last month.
As the world-class musical performances in China continue to boom, there is a need for unique experiences like “Contemporale” to fill venues and attract new audiences — something different than the chamber performances, Peking Operas, and acrobatic shows usually seen.
“The ‘Contemporale’ series is a new concept for the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. We expect Lubomyr Melnyk to be an even greater success,” Sebastian Wang, director of artistic planning at the Shanghai Symphony Hall, tells Shanghai Daily.
“I really feel it was something different. I can’t wait for the next installment on October 19 with Lubomyr Melnyk,” says Archie Hamilton, managing director and founder of Split Works, about the Moonface concert last month.
Since 2006, Split Works has been working with inspirational artists from across the globe, contributing to the rise of China’s classical music scene.
“When we got the opportunity to partner up with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra on a series of events for their new concert hall, it was like a dream come true,” says Hamilton. “It is incredibly progressive of them, but also a very vital step in really developing culture here.
“It’s common knowledge that China has been really adept and at times brilliant at constructing new venues, but that’s only the first phase,” he adds.
Step 2 is to fill the venues, and for that, management will be looking at a wider range of artists, he says.
Lubomyr Melnyk concert
Date: October 19, 7:45pm
Venue: Shanghai Symphony Hall, 1380 Fuxing Rd M., near Baoqing Rd