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ALL KEYED UP

Park Slope pianist Angela Jia Kim releases debut CD, ’Dances and Fantasies’

for The Brooklyn Paper
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I didn’t know there were many artists living in Brooklyn," pianist Angela Jia Kim, a Park Slope resident who may lay claim to the unofficial title of "busiest classical musician," says with a laugh.

Kim’s whirlwind schedule - performing in solo recitals, with Trio Salome or in orchestral concerts across North America, in France and Japan, as well as promoting her newly-released CD "Dances and Fantasies" - forces her to see less of her neighborhood than she would like.

"I love it," Kim exclaims about her Brooklyn digs, and then explains why. "I’m from Iowa." After a well-placed pause, she continues, "I grew up in Ames, Iowa." She giggles at the thought, as if she doesn’t believe it.

"My dad was a math professor at the University of Iowa," says Kim. "I go back and give recitals once in awhile. I knew it was boring when I was growing up, but I didn’t know it was that boring."

Kim’s childhood in Iowa couldn’t have been too boring, as she early on displayed a musical talent nurtured by her parents, especially her mother.

"My mom was a pianist, and she was also my first piano teacher," Kim recounts. "Starting from age 2, I had wanted to play the piano, but my mom didn’t want me to start playing at that age. So, finally, after I turned 4, she gave me my first lesson, and by the age of 5, I gave my first solo recital."

Kim, who would only say she was in her "late 20s," doesn’t think it’s that outlandish a notion to be performing in public at such a young age.

"When your mom is your first teacher, you go places fast," she says with a shrug. "It was really fun at first, because my mom made it fun for me. I played things like ’Mary Had a Little Lamb,’ and my feet would barely touch the ground! But at that age, you have absolutely no inhibitions. You just don’t realize that you’re getting up in front of a bunch of people - it’s not such a big deal at that age. It’s just fun!"

Obviously, Kim still considers performing fun, as one glance at her grueling tour schedule shows: she played the Laguna Beach Chamber Music Festival in California at the beginning of April, and even found time to return to Iowa for a recent solo recital.

On April 21 Kim will perform at the Trinity Church Concert Series in Lower Manhattan, where she will play the four Impromptus of Franz Schubert, along with the third piano sonata of Frederic Chopin.

"Chopin is an obvious choice for a pianist, but he’s wonderful to play and to listen to," Kim says. "His sonata is full of emotion." (Kim returns to the Trinity Church series June 2 to perform with Trio Salome, which includes violinist Nurit Pacht and cellist Julie Albers.)

An equally important undertaking is Kim’s debut recording. Titled "Dances and Fantasies," it’s an excellent introduction to a very talented pianist, showing off her versatility and individual stamp on such disparate composers as Schubert, Mozart, Alexander Scriabin and Maurice Ravel.

"My favorite composer is probably Ravel: I’m obsessed with him, and I’ve probably played all of his piano works," says Kim. (On her new disc, she tackles the shimmering "Valses nobles et sentimentales" and the somber "Pavane pour une infante defunte.")

"One of my absolute favorite works is Scriabin’s ’Fantasy Sonata No. 2,’" she says. "It’s a cliche to say this, but it’s a very sensual piece ... he wrote it while he was honeymooning with his wife, and I love the colors in the music.

"Schubert’s ’Wanderer Fantasy’ is one I perform a lot, and the ’Fantasia’ [in D minor] by Mozart is another one of my favorites. And that’s pretty much how the recording came about - it sort of just happened, since these are all composers I really love to perform."

Not all of the composers that Kim enjoys playing are regularly heard in recital programs, and that is something she’d like to change. "I’d like to get more into [Olivier] Messiaen’s music," she says of the notoriously difficult-sounding French composer.

"I once went to a concert of his piano music and I thought that it was just too much for me - I walked away feeling psychotic!" says Kim. "But once I started to play it, I thought, ’This is amazing.’ So I’m really looking forward to one day doing some of it. But most concert promoters don’t like to program stuff that’s so crazy."

But if Angela Jia Kim gets her way, they will.


Pianist Angela Jia Kim performs Schubert and Chopin at the Trinity Church’s series, "Concerts at One," on April 21 at 1 pm at St. Paul’s Chapel, at Broadway and Fulton Street in Manhattan. The concert is free. For more information, go to www.trinitywallstreet.com.

Kim’s Miro Classical Records CD, "Dances and Fantasies," featuring solo piano works by Ravel, Scriabin, Schubert and Mozart, is available now at www.angelajiakim.com. The CDs are $13.50 and $15 (autographed).

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