Concert : Piano

Today’s performance at the Asian Civilization Museum (Shaw Foundation foyer) is a collaboration with the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music at the National University of Singapore (YSTCM).

The ten performers today are good, especially the Year 1 students and the YAP (Young Artist Programme)  students (compared to many of the Year 1 & YAP students of yore).

The programme is well-thought out and selection of pieces played is wonderful.

The performance started with a Year 1 student playing Bach’s (German, 1685-1750) Prelude & Fugue in G Major. I used to play this piece but never this well! Her nifty finger-work was impressive. The melody in the Prelude sang beautifully and the counterpoint in the Fugue was very well executed.

This was followed by another Year 1 student with Mozart’s (Austrian, 1719-1787) Sonata in B-flat Major, K.333. It was a gentle and clean playing; the notes were crystal-clear and she made appropriate use of the pedal at suitable places.

Grieg’s (Norwegian, 1833-1897) Praeludium from the Holberg Suite, opus 40 was played by a first-year YAP student. I’ve not heard this piece before and I was impressed by his fingerwork, especially in the left hand. The dynamics went from one extreme to the other (pp – ff) between the two hands effectively, and the melody was clearly heard even when there was crossing-over of hands.

This was followed by three sonatas played by two other YAP students: Domenico Scarlatt’s (Italian, 1810-1856) Sonata in G minor, K. 426 & Sonata In G Major, K. 427 and Haydn’s (German, 1732-1809) Sonata in F Major, Hob. XVI:23 (I. Allegro moderato). The playing was inspiring; the left-hand thrills/ornaments and right-hand running notes were impressive, save for a minor slip in the coda.

The Mozart Sonata in A Minor, K.310 (I. Allegro maestoso) is one of my favourite Mozart sonatas, and I’ve heard many great pianists play this, thus I was a tad disappointed as this Year 1 student’s playing was just about comparable to mine (when I practised it properly). I found her chords were not full and majestic enough, though the gentler sections were nice. She also slipped twice during the Recapitulation section.

Haydn’s Sonata in B Minor, Hob. XVI:32 (I. Allegro moderato) was slightly disappointing was I expected a Year 1 student to play better than a YAP student, but it was not so.

Then came a surprising good playing of Ravel’s (French, 1875-1937) Miroirs (I. Noctuelles & III. Un barque sur l’ocean)! This is such a difficult piece that I don’t even dare to attempt to play it, but this Year 4 student nailed it so well! She had such a natural flair for playing Ravel! The complicated configuration of notes and the impressionistic demands just oozed with ease from her fingers. I can’t wait to listen to her play this piece again at next Monday’s Piano Masterclass.

Things just got better with another Year 4 student playing Rachmaninov’s (Russian, 1873-1943) Sonata No 1 in D Minor, opus 28 (I. Allegro moderato). It was simply mind-blowing! I marvelled at how he overcame the copious amount of notes and still could make his right hand melody sing and soar above the big ff chords in the left hand. It went from fiery to sweet to contemplative, all excellently executed. I think this student would be in the Master Programme next year, just like the next performer.

As in most concerts, the best is kept for the last. Clarence Lee is a second year Master of Music student, majoring in Piano Performance. I had been impressed by his playing since he began his studies at the Conservatory at age 15. Not surprisingly, he obtained a First Class Honours (Bachelor of Music, 2013) and was asked to perform at his convocation ceremony.

Today, he played Liszt’s (Hungarian, 1811-1886) Transcendental Etude No 8, “Wilde Jagd” (Wild Hunt) (I. Allegro moderato). The piano literally came alive and wild! He was also apparently deeply immersed in the music and enjoying himself, as his facial expression and smiles showed. This is one true artist; almost incomparable in Singapore. After all, out of so many good pianists, he was the pianist chosen to be the stand-in for internationally acclaimed pianist Lang Lang for the rehearsals of the recent SING50 concert! I look forward to his graduation recital at YSTCM next month!

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