After previewing for CityBeat the recent American Voices XIV: Celebrating John Cage at 100 concert at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music, I attended the crowded event to see the group I had featured, Percussion Group Cincinnati, perform Cage’s Music for Three while the CCM Philharmonia played Cage’s Ranga. It was as charming and strange, as enigmatically mysterious, as one expects of Cage.
But what was completely unexpected — and absolutely, breathtakingly, thrilling — was the performance before that, CCM student Kris Rucinski’s mastery of the four movements of Lou Harrison’s Piano Concerto. Harrison, who died in 2003, had written the concerto in the 1980s for Keith Jarrett.
The online Arts Journal has called this sweeping, complex and majestic half-hour piece “as formidable as any ever composed by an American.” And with good reason — its fiery passages erupt and tumble like lava; its quieter and more reflective moments are transcendent.
It would seem a piece for a mature virtuoso, yet Rucinski showed stunning, sustained accomplishment, at peak fast-paced moments striking and pounding the keys, hand over hand, like Cecil Taylor. At others, he was as confidently elegant as any seasoned classical soloist.
Pursuing a Master’s in Piano Performance, Rucinski already has several videos on You Tube. He’s a phenomenal talent, someone I suspect could some day become of CCM’s many most illustrious students. Maybe very soon.