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Gallagher Captivates Audience in Meru Valley Resort

Meru Valley Resort, in its continuing efforts to encourage the flourishing of the arts through musical recitals and concerts, recently welcomed classical pianist and entrepreneur, Kimball Gallagher for a by-invitation only piano recital at its Dome Restaurant on Saturday, May 7. The Boston-born New York-based artist is no stranger to Malaysia as he had performed at the Sutra Dance Theatre Kuala Lumpur and the Sarawak State Library, both in 2012 during his 88 Concert Tour.

The two-hour recital kicked-off with an inspiring selection of musical works by Russian composer, Modest Mussorgsky. A prolific composer, Gallagher also presented invited guests with “Sarawak” which was premiered during his fundraising concert in Sarawak in 2012. He concluded the evening of melodic splendour with compositions of Frederic Chopin, a revolutionary music piece from Opus 25.

Widely regarded as a thought leader of his generation and an entrepreneur fiercely dedicated to humanitarian causes, Gallagher founded a non-profit organisation entitled “88 International” in 2009 which serves as an umbrella for the various creative partnerships his concerts have inspired.

Gallagher earned his undergraduate degree at Rice University in the studio of Jeanne Kierman-Fischer and his Master of Music degree as a pupil of Robert McDonald at The Juilliard School. His lifelong mentor, pianist Joseph Smith, is a mainstay of his musical development.

A Stunning Piano Recital (reviewed by Eric Leong)

Mr Kimball Gallagher presented a demanding programme with skill, a sense of precision and a complete mastery of the keyboard. Kimball began the recital playing ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ for the first half.

In January 1874, an exhibition was held in St Petersburg as a memorial for the Russian architect and painter Victor Hartmann, who had died the previous July, aged 39. Among those who went to the exhibition was Modest Mussorgsky, a friend and admirer of the architect and he was inspired to write a piano suite “in memory of our dear Victor”.

Kimball presented this notoriously difficult work with ravishing washes of colour and minutely detailed dynamics, filled with both sensual and sensuous atmosphere. In some of the movements (e.g., The Old Castle) the notes sang with poetry and beauty. In the Baba-Yaga, he added a glissando (not written in the original score) to highlight the climax and (I told Kimball later) Mussorgsky would have welcomed the splendid idea. Undoubtedly Kimball had the orchestra in mind, so much so as if Mussorgsky had made a piano reduction of the orchestral score by Ravel. First part of the recital closed with bells ringing as if heralding a national celebration.

The second half of the recital consisted of the complete set of Etudes by Chopin Opus 25. Etudes are simply finger exercises but Chopin created this wonderful idea to make monotonous finger exercises musical enough to be performed in concerts.

Here, Kimball was equally comfortable with these 12 Etudes. He presented with delicate nuances and singing lines, at times playful and witty, and at times quietly expressive. Kimball cleverly subdivided these Etudes into three lots and he gave a brief account on each, so the second half turned out to be tutorial like. It is fascinating to hear the complete set of Opus 25 in one sitting, to appreciate their contrasting characteristics and moods, and to marvel at the range of Chopin’s imagination and powers of expression.

Mr Kimball Gallagher gave a virtuosic performance playing with that extra flair that makes a fine performance, a memorable one.

I shall look forward to seeing him again to perform for us in the near future.

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