Pianist Vicky Chow brings her artistry back to local audiences with “Etudes Book 2”

    1 of 2 2 of 2

      Musical proteges are few and far between, so when one hailing from Vancouver returns to play for a local audience, it’s an event you don’t want to miss.

      Vicky Chow began playing piano at just five years old. By the age of 10, she was skilled enough to debut as an orchestral pianist with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Now—months after playing on the iconic Carnegie Hall stage in New York—she’s returning to Vancouver to play Philip Glass’ Etudes Book 2.

      The May 28 show, presented by Music on Main at Christ Church Cathedral, is a continuation of her 2023 performance of Etudes Book 1, completing the arc she began last March. In 2018, Chow was Music on Main’s first-ever artist in residency. 

      Her inspiration to play these etudes didn’t come out of nowhere, either. Chow says she fell in love with the compositions of Glass when she was given the chance to play with him on stage during the Winnipeg Music Festival. 

      “They were presenting the complete piano etudes in one concert, and I was asked to perform on that show,” she says via phone. “That’s when I was first introduced to these works, and I completely fell in love with them—and I decided to learn all 20 of them.”

      Each book contains 10 of Glass’ etudes. Chow’s 2023 performance of Book 1—also presented by Music on Main—was presented to a sold-out crowd. David Pay, artistic director of Music on Main, says he’s looking forward to her playing for local audiences again. 

      “Vicky Chow stunned audiences with last spring’s performance of Book 1”, he says in a statement, “and we could not be more thrilled to welcome her back to present the arc and beauty that comes with the completion of such emotionally-resonant repertoire.”

      It’s not just audiences who enjoy Chow playing Glass’ works. Glass himself referred to her recording of Etudes Book 1 as “a highly dynamic and expressive performance,” saying that “there’s a certain energy that is uniquely hers.”

      Chow says one of her favorite parts of these pieces is the feeling she gets when playing them.

      “It gave me a sense of freedom that I haven’t had on the piano for a few years,” she reflects. “It allowed that side of my playing to shine through that I wasn’t able to showcase with some of the previous works I was performing.”

      She finds Etudes Book 2 to be even more of a musical challenge to play than Book 1.

      “It’s not just finger exercises. Musically they’re very well written and there’s a lot of depth,” she says. “Book 2 has a lot more of these emotional musical challenges than Book 1.”

      Chow says the writing of Book 2 is also more abstract.

      “If you look at the score, there’s not a lot of direction; it’s almost as if you’re looking at Bach or something,” she says. “There needs to be some kind of familiarity of Philip Glass’ music in order to interpret it.”

      Among things like seeing her family and getting to eat her mom’s cooking, Chow says she’s excited to be able to finish what she started.

      “This is a project that started years before the pandemic and it feels like it’s coming full circle,” she says. “You know, for me to realize this project, to put it out into the world, to share it with audiences is something that I really believe in.”

      Vicky Chow performing Etudes Book 2

      May 28 at 7:30pm

      Where: Christ Church Cathedral

      Tickets: Available here