By TIMOTHY MANGAN
Pianist Gloria Cheng will be driving down the freeway (we’re guessing the 5) from her home in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Mount Washington next week to take part in the Pacific Symphony’s second and final “Sonic Kitchen” concert of the season. Cheng is one of the foremost contemporary music pianists in the world — Pierre Boulez once faxed her a piece in the middle of the night; she’s won a Grammy — and she’s being brought in to perform in a demanding program of new music which will include pieces by Frederic Rzewski, Philip Glass, George Crumb and others.
The concert is a musical supplement to the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art’s “Art as Protest,” an exhibit featuring a provocative array of visual artworks that aim to “afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted.” Given the times, it is inevitably political.
To which music can quite naturally contribute, Cheng said by phone recently.
“So much music is political, whether the message is overt or not,” she said. “I mean even a Brahms symphony is political. I’m reminded of something that my husband said. My husband’s not a musician, and he really dislikes a lot of 19th century orchestral repertoire. Because he hears militarism in it, he hears class conflict in it.
“And I said, ‘Really, you hear all that?’ And he enlightened me to that; it’s absolutely there. It is. Listen to a Tchaikovsky symphony, so much is about marches and a militaristic kind of world view. And that existed, that’s there. So, I’m a musician and the politics, they’re embedded in any work of art. Sometimes you just have to delve a little deeper for it, but it’s always there.”