One of the three events I attended today is the lunchtime concert at the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM). This is a collaboration between ACM and YSTCM (Yong Siew Toh Connservatory of Music). Today’s performance is purely piano. The performers are mostly Year 1 piano majors (with one in Year 2 of the Bachelor of Music programme and one in the Young Artist Programme, potentially a YST student in the near future).
Performed on the Bosendorfer baby grand piano (pictured above), the pieces range from Baroque to Romantic to Twentieth century music.
The concert opens with the lively and colourful Sonata in B-flat Major, K 545 by Domenico Scarlatti (Italian, 1685-1757). This is followed by Etude in E Major, opus 72 No 2 by Moritz Moszkowski (German, 1854-1925), a piece often played in piano competitions. In fact, the pianist who played this today could have played this very piece in one of the piano competitions she took part in (and she took part in many, winning some of them). It is definitely a good piece to display the nifty fingerwork and solid technique of the performer.
Sonata in B Minor, Hob. XVI:32 by Joseph Haydn (Austrian, 1732-1809) is quite a distinctive work. Right from the first mordent (immaculately executed), I was inspired to rush home, dig out my scores and relearn it, although I know I would never be able to play it as beautifully or with enough dexterity. Perhaps I could fumble through it and imagine the delicious sounds in my head.
I have long thought that compositions by Alexander Scriabin (Russian, 1871-1915) are too challenging for me, but the pianist today played the Two Poems, opus 32 with such airy innocence and dreamy harmonies that I’m tempted to give it a try. However, I held that thought for only a couple of minutes. The music becomes so microscosmic and chromatic that I know it demands a transcendental technique that I do not possess. I would never be able to do justice to the texture and I do not have the required touch and immense power to unleash the musical quality of this piece of work.
The second of Franz Liszt’s (Hungarian, 1811-1886) Three Concert Etudes, S. 144 (La Leggierezza) demands a virtuosic technique beyond my ability. At most, I may be able to pick out the deceptively simple melodic lines in each hand separately. The fingers have to be unusually flexible to play the many frentic, difficult and complex patterns/passages like chromatic arpeggios and rapid leggiero chromatic runs with irregular rhythmic groupings. Hence it was such a pleasure to watch another pianist’s fingers flying up and down the keyboard.
The next item is Frederic Chopin’s (Polish, 1810-1849) Etude in C Major, opus 10 No 1 & Etude in C Minor, opus 10 No 12 (“Revolutionary”). These are exercises that are (especially to this listener) dizzling and both have a hypnotic charm to them. There is a lot of chromaticism (even in the left hand octave melody!) and uninterrupted arpeggios, yet has a chorale type of harmony. The length and repetition of rapid passages is relentless and challenging. There is a lot of tension. I won’t even attempt to play any of these Chopin Etudes when my sole attempt at opus 12 no 3 isn’t even up to scratch.
Claude Debussy’s (French, 1862-1918) L’isle Joyeuse is an extended solo piece which is based on the whole-tone scale, the lydian mode and the diatonic scale. It is an extremely profound piece (the technical hurdles, the different rhythmic patterns, the extensive use of pedalling, the colour and layered textures). Perhaps that is one reason that this piece is the finale of the day. I shall stick to playing pieces like Clair de lune and Arabesques Nos 1 & 2.