Luke Welch put his considerable talents on the piano keyboard on full display September 22 to an appreciative audience in the opening performance of the new season of the MacKay United Church Concert Series.
The Toronto-based pianist entitled his performance Pushing Boundaries and was in honour of three classical composers who did much to change keyboard music in the 1700 and 1800s. Welch injected his own energy into the eight compositions of Domenico Scarlatti, W.A. Mozart and Frederic Chopin. They all flowed forward with a brisk and contemplative majesty.
Then he pushed the boundary of his selections with an encore performance of Louis Armstrong’s “Oh What a Wonderful World”. It was a musical bonus for the audience. His rendition deserves to be heard more often.
In addition to his skillful playing, it was remarkable to watch Welch play such complex pieces without any sheet music in front of him. When asked about playing from memory, he said it was easier. If he forgot anything or flubbed a note, you wouldn’t know it from the smoothness of his playing.
It was a musical bonus for the audience. His rendition deserves to be heard more often.
As explained in the evening’s program notes, Welch picked the three composers because “they pushed the boundaries of the musical conventions of their day to produce new, exciting, and innovative works which broadened the range of western music and changed its direction.”
If you visit Welch’s website, you’ll see he’s trying to push musical boundaries himself as a busy performer both solo and with orchestras but also as a teacher. He played in public for the first time at age seven and after graduating from the University of Western Ontario, completed additional graduate studies in the Netherlands. He released his third album earlier this year.
He chose Scarlatti because he expanded the conventions of keyboard music of the Baroque period with over five hundred works which combined technical skill with lyrical ingenuity and melodious creativity. Mozart perfected the piano sonata in the Classical period and achieved new heights of feeling and expression while Chopin explored an ever-wider emotional depth and range for piano music.