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Classical Music: Pianist Shoko Inoue features in film, live performance at Cinecenta

What: Pray Ground (film and concert), with Shoko Inoue, piano When/where: Monday, Jan. 20, 7 p.m., Cinecenta (University of Victoria) Tickets: $30; students $15.
Pianist Shoko Inoue is at Cinecenta for a film and concert on Monday.

What: Pray Ground (film and concert), with Shoko Inoue, piano
When/where: Monday, Jan. 20, 7 p.m., Cinecenta (University of Victoria)
Tickets: $30; students $15. In advance at Ivy’s Bookshop and Munro’s Books

On Monday, pianist Shoko Inoue, who has lived here since 2010, will make an unconventional public appearance at Cinecenta, to première and discuss a fascinating new film and then perform live.

The basis for this 15-minute film, of which I recently saw a rough cut, is a recording of Inoue playing Busoni’s arrangement of Bach’s famous Chaconne in D Minor for solo violin. It is a deeply expressive performance, and the film’s sound engineer, Patrick Coble, has done justice to it in his rich-toned recording.

The visuals, shot in the fall, are the work of a talented young filmmaker, Chen Wang, a graduate student in the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Fine Arts. Inoue was filmed playing the Chaconne in her own studio and at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at the University of British Columbia, and further filming was done elsewhere: downtown Victoria, Sooke, Salt Spring Island, even on the ocean.

This is no ordinary classical-music film. It opens with Inoue on the Chan Centre’s stage, but quickly transforms into a visual tapestry of mostly nature imagery — sea, forest, rain, fire — but also some powerful, elemental scenes of Inoue literally “playing the ground,” immersed waist-deep in mud. Often unexpected and striking, the visuals are also thoughtfully aligned with the structure and shifting moods of the Chaconne.

The film’s title incorporates several levels of meaning and captures the devotional quality in both the visuals and the performance: Inoue can somehow create an inward, spiritual experience in the most flamboyantly virtuosic repertoire.

Such is also her approach to Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B Minor, which she will perform live on Monday, against a kaleidoscopic backdrop of projected colours.

The sonata, completed in 1853, is one of the quintessential instrumental works of the Romantic era. A single movement running about half an hour, it is a work of astonishing range — a whole world — yet also a triumph of unified construction, and it makes enormous demands on a pianist, technically, intellectually and emotionally.

Some years ago, I heard Inoue perform this monumental masterpiece privately for UVic piano students, and was impressed by her complete command of it.

In December, incidentally, she recorded the Liszt sonata, and that recording will provide the basis for another film with Wang.

As with many others, Inoue hears a sort of “poetic program” in the sonata drawn from Goethe’s Faust, an interpretation that will surely figure in the new film. Stay tuned…

Pray Ground Trailer from Chen W on Vimeo.

There will be two other recitals of note at UVic in the coming days, both in Phillip T. Young Recital Hall. (Details at

On Sunday (2:30 p.m., by donation), pianist Arthur Rowe, a professor in UVic’s School of Music, will give a fundraising solo recital to mark the school’s 12th anniversary as an all-Steinway institution.

Rowe will also use the occasion to make an early contribution to the celebrations this year of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. He will offer a program devoted to innovative later works by Beethoven: the six quirky bagatelles of Op. 126; the A-major sonata, Op. 101; and the mighty “Hammerklavier” Sonata, Op. 106, Beethoven’s grandest and most technically demanding sonata, and one of his signature late works.

And on Monday (8 p.m., free), the Orion Series in Fine Arts will sponsor an appearance by Colorado-based flutist Brook Ferguson, in repertoire ranging from Bach to Piazzolla.

Also on Sunday, the Aventa Ensemble will mount its first concert of the year (8 p.m., Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, $20; pre-concert talk 7:15).

The program consists of works by three Quebec-based composers, Farangis Nurulla-Khoja, Simon Martin and Ana Sokolovi (whose music Aventa has performed many times, here and on tour, since 2006), and two works by the American composer and pianist Missy Mazzoli: In Spite of All This (2005) and Violent, Violent Sea (2011).

Mazzoli, 39, is one of the most successful composers of her generation.

Based in Brooklyn, she teaches at the Mannes School of Music in Manhattan and is composer-in-residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Her music is imaginative and original though also accessible, and has been widely performed to the highest praise.