World-renowned violinist and child prodigy Sarah Chang performed on Thursday, Sept. 19 at the Hugh Hodgson School of Music Concert Hall to an eager and appreciative audience of University of Georgia students, Athens community members and far-traveling families. Julio Elizalde, a gifted pianist, acted as her accompaniment.
The program consisted of “Romanian Folk Dances” by Béla Bartók, “Sonata in A Major” by Cesar Frank, “Salut d’Amour, Op. 12” by Edward Elgar, “Dance of the Goblins” by Antonio Bazzini, “Romance in F minor, Op. 11” by Antonin Dvorak and “Tzigane” by Maurice Ravel.
Prior to the start of Chang’s performance, seats filled up quickly in the expansive, wood-paneled concert hall. An excited buzz spread across the crowd as showtime drew near. Audience member’s clothes ranged from casual jeans and sneakers to suit jackets and dress pants.
As soon as the lights focused on the stage, a hush fell over the crowd. One moment later, Chang and Elizalde walked on stage to a long-lasting applause. Chang wore a blue sequined dress and Elizalde wore a black suit with a light pink handkerchief.
It became clear why the seats from pit to balcony were full after the first song they performed. In “Romanian Folk Dances,” her playing started off soft and gentle, then switched pace for a more ominous, soft section capable of sending chills down the audience members’ spine.
Chang’s facial expressions and body language changed alongside the tone of each movement. When her playing became more soulful, her eyebrows creased and she grimaced. At times, she looked as if she would cry. During other moments that were more soulful, her body swayed in large, swirling movements.
Each piece demonstrated the extent of Chang’s playing ability. She showed off her mastery of music and her ability to manipulate the audience’s emotions through her music and energy. Her playing captured the audience’s attention and drew them along for a ride through the emotions of hope, despair, joy, anger and sorrow in each song.
After the intermission, Chang arrived back onstage wearing a silver sequined mermaid dress which caught in the light. The next four pieces were shorter, but still took the audience along on an adventure. “Salut d’Amour, Op. 12” was quick-paced and bouncy. Her fingers moved along the frets expertly, spinning together a captivating and breathtaking performance.
“Dance of the Goblins” began with Elizalde on the piano. As he played, the music swelled like a wave, growing louder then retreating softly. “Romance in F minor, Op. 11” was an elegant and graceful piece which made Chang grimace and lean back to play during the louder, more soulful moments. After each performance, Chang and Elizalde bowed in-sync, just like the duo did in their playing.
The final piece, “Tzigane,”began with a long and mournful violin solo that changed to sound powerful and villainous, then animated and fast-paced.
At the end of the concert, Chang and Elizade bowed and left the stage only to come back again for an encore performance. Elizalde thanked UGA, then told the audience the duo would play “Air on G String” by Bach.
In the lobby, a long line formed amidst excited chatter to both ask for Chang’s and Elizade’s autographs and to complement them.
“It was incredible,” Rebecca Speed, a freshman early childhood education major, said. “I mean, she’s stunning. I love violin music. I’ve never heard her specifically, but she was just breathtaking honestly.”
Nicole Ahn, a 19-year-old from Seoul, South Korea, currently studying in Germany as a political science major, heard about Chang’s performance from her mother who works as a news reporter for Atlanta Radio Korea. Her mother brought her to the concert to help her reconnect with her Korean heritage.
“It was beautiful. I'm so proud of Sarah Chang and what she's done in her work,” Ahn said. "Her expressions of her music … [is] so precise, and I can see that she's really passionate about music.”