I witnessed a dazzling display of pianism and an absolutely stunning performance by four of the most brilliant and outstanding Singaporean pianists at the Piano Extravaganza last night!
At the 12th edition of the Young Virtuoso Series, Dr Azariah Tan, Clarence Lee, Song Ziliang and Gabriel Hoe played solo pieces, duets, works for two pianos and a world premiere for eight hands.
Except for Ziliang, who came to my attention when he was featured in the local TV documentary “Find Me a Singaporean” more than a decade ago, I’ve watched the growth and maturity of Azariah, Clarence and Gabriel since their undergraduate days at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music.
Bach-Busoni’s Chaconne in D minor is a difficult and beautiful solo piece brilliantly executed by Gabriel; Liszt’s Apres une lecture du Dante from Annees du Pelerinage, Book 2: Italie is a masterwork in which Clarence got to showcase his virtuosity; Beethoven’s Sonata No 30 in E major, Op 109 is both intimate and lyrical yet also bright and radiant, wonderfully interpreted by Azariah; Lu Wencheng/ Chen Peixun’s Autumn Moon on a Calm Lake and Ren Guang/ Wang Jianhong’s Colourful Clouds Chasing the Moon are mesmerizing, and Strauss/Grunfeld’s Soiree de Vienne is delightful, all impressively delivered by Ziliang.
Azariah and Ziliang played Brahms’ Hungarian Dances Nos 1 & 4 as a duet and Milhaud’s Scaramouche on two pianos. The third movement, Brazileira, is so charming that it not only grabs my attention but their rendition lingers in my mind for a long time.
Gabriel and Clarence paired up to play Rachmaninoff’s Suite No 2 for 2 Pianos, Op 17. This has lush lyrical melodies as well as florid and complex passagework. The chordal and energetic Alla Marcia, and the swirling and hypnotic Valse create a breathless quality; the Andantino movement has a romantic lush melody that rises to an ecstatic climax; and the driving rhythm of the Tarantelle and its powerful climaxes are contrasted with interludes of delicate passagework that build to an effective and virtuosic coda.
The finale is Tsao Chieh/ Bertram Wee’s The Republic. This work comes from the late Singaporean composer Tsao’s five-movement Singapore Suite (1985), and is specially transcribed for 8 hands by Wee for this concert. The symphonic suite recounts different periods of Singapore’s history, and contains many familiar local tunes like Rasa Sayang and Little White Boat (小白船).
The applause was long and hard enough to bring the pianists back for an encore, during which they played another ‘movement’ from same suite. This time, favourites like Bunga Sayang, Chan Mali Chan and Home are heard.
It was indeed a memorable night and I’m thankful to the organisers, MW Events Management for the complimentary ticket.