Pianist Ian Parker performs with the Vancouver Island Symphony Saturday (Oct. 22).

Pianist Ian Parker performs with the Vancouver Island Symphony Saturday (Oct. 22).

Moments of joy

Pianist Ian Parker plays the uplifting, yet heart-wrenching, composition of Tchaikovsky

The moments of despair amid joy, and those of happiness during sorrow, are well-acquainted in composer Peter Tchaikovsky’s work.

The Russian’s most famous piano concerto is a perfect example of the turmoil the composer felt during his career.

“It covers all the emotional values of the Romantic period,” said pianist Ian Parker, who performs Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Vancouver Island Symphony Saturday (Oct. 22).

He said Tchaikovsky’s melodic nature comes through in the piece, which may owe to his training as a violinist, as well as the composer’s ability to stir strong emotions from listeners.

“Pianists are more concerned about showing off the pyrotechnics of the instrument,” Parker said. “Tchaikovsky is more about ripping your soul out.”

In the first movement, traditionally the piano is given its grand entrance at the end of the section, but Tchaikovsky gives the instrument a moment to shine right away.

The second movement follows with a very innocent, pastoral sound, which Tchaikovsky shakes up by throwing in a jazzy moment before returning to the country sound.

The third is a non-stop train ride, said Parker.

“You can feel this intense, rhythmic quality,” he said.

The triumphant moments in the piece reflect the conflict within human emotion and represents the concert’s overall theme of genius and madness.

The symphony will also play Tchaikovsky’s Polonaise and Waltz from the opera Eugene Onegin; Schumann’s Manfred Overture and Symphony No. 3 (Rhenish).

It’s the symphony’s third concert featuring Parker as the guest artist. The relationship began under the symphony’s founding director, Marlin Wolfe, who had Parker play Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 18, in C minor, in 2005.

Two years later, Parker played Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue at current artistic director Pierre Simard’s very first concert with the symphony.

“That was the whole year they were trying different conductors,” Parker said. “The concert really put Pierre to the test and he just ate it up.”

The same can be said for Parker, who began playing piano at age three, under the tutelage of his father, Edward. Parker earned a master’s degree in music from Juilliard, North America’s premiere arts school and won the Sylva Gelber Career Grant from the Canada Council, awarded annually to the most talented Canadian artist.

He takes the stage with the Vancouver Island Symphony Saturday, 7:30 p.m., at the Port Theatre. Tickets $52; $49/seniors; $20/students. Please call 250-754-8550.

For more information, please visit www.vancouverislandsymphony.com.