The Harker Concert Series is in its second year, yet has already established itself as a must-see event for lovers of classical and jazz repertoire. Pianist Adam Golka sold out Nichols Hall’s auditorium on Feb. 4 as the third installment of this year’s series, following Opera San Jose and the Gerald Clayton Trio. The 2011-12 season will conclude in March with the Afiara String Quartet.
Texan Golka is only 24 years old and has had a grueling concertizing schedule for some time. Winner of several major international piano competitions, including the Shanghai International Piano Competition in 2003 and the Gilmore Young Artist Award in 2008, Golka added Harker to his list of impressive collaborations, which include Carnegie Hall with the New York Youth Symphony and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. According to his online biography, Golka currently studies with Leon Fleisher at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore.
The second star of the show was the piano, a seven-foot-eight-inch Bechstein, generously leant for the evening by Piedmont Piano Company. Golka’s program showed off not only his own technical mastery, but the warmth of this wonderful instrument.
Fittingly for the Bechstein’s rich and dramatic sonority, Golka played a program of Romantic music, with a Beethoven sonata, three intermezzi by Brahms and Liszt’s famous “Mephisto Waltz” in the first half of the concert. After intermission, Golka was a tour de force, playing what is generally considered by pianists to be Beethoven’s most difficult piece, the “Hammerklavier” sonata. Each movement of this 45-minute piece showcased a different strength of both Golka and the Bechstein, with furious staccato passages, flowing, almost post-Romantic interludes and Bach-inspired fugal passages.
Golka met with audience members in the atrium after the performance.