NZSM Piano Students impress at St.Andrew’s

St.Andrews Lunchtime Concert Series 2015
Te Kōkī New Zealand School of Music Piano Students

Joy Sun – BEETHOVEN : Piano Sonata No.18 in E-flat Op.31 No.3 (Ist Mvt.)

Choong Park – RACHMANINOV – Piano Sonata No.2  (Ist.Mvt.)

Hana Kim – SCHUBERT – Impromptu Op.90 No.2 in E-flat

Nicole Ting – BEETHOVEN – Piano Sonata No.30 in E Op.109 (Mvts. I and II)
CHOPIN – Scherzo No.2 Op.31

Xing Wang – DEBUSSY – Children’s Corner (Suite)

(NZSM Piano tutor: Jian Liu)

St Andrew’s on-the-Terrace, Wellington

Tuesday 26th May 2015

What a pianistic feast this was! – more appropriately so for a lunchtime concert, with nothing given us that was too large-scale or difficult to digest easily. Which is not to suggest that the repertoire chosen by the students was anything less than challenging, both technically and interpretatively.

Each of the performers impressed with their intense involvement in the music-making – I felt they all to a creditable extent made music from “inside” their particular pieces, and conveyed a sense both of enjoyment of detail and awareness of the music’s overall “reach”, allowing each quality to readily speak.In every instance the music’s “character” was to some degree conveyed most readily.

I was unaccountably hampered during the concert by not having a pen that worked, and was thus unable to make notes as “reminders” for later – my apologies if my remarks seem not as detailed as is usually the case. Fortunately each of the students had a distinct “way” with his or her playing, which I found helpful as well as refreshing and exciting.

Joy Sun began the concert with a sympathetic and sensitive reading of the first movement of Beethoven’s Op.18 E-flat Sonata. She shaped the music beautifully, giving the impression of “going with” the work’s explorations as much as driving the music’s course herself – nothing was unduly forced, and her aspect at the keyboard was fluid and organic.

I was similarly impressed with her shaping of Liszt’s equally loved-as-maligned transcription of Schumann’s song “Widmung”, stressing the poetry and lyricism ahead of the music’s more obviously virtuoso aspects, especially in the latter stages. Her building up towards the “grand manner” from the central episode’s gentleness was nicely managed, as was the work’s quietly-ecstatic conclusion.

More poetry, this time of a brooding, Slavic kind came from the expert fingers of Choong Park, playing the opening allegro agitato from Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Sonata. It all came to life in this performance most vividly, from the opening downward plunge, through the gentler D Major episodes, before building up to the tremendous evocations of churchbells that were a trademark of the composer. Choong Park seemed completely at home in the work’s textures, and his patient unfolding of the music suited the piece’s improvisatory aspect, allowing it to unfold as night follows day.

A welcome antidote to such intensities was provided by the sparking, rippling performance by Hana Kim of Schubert’s delectable Impromptu Op.90 No.2 in E-flat. One or two tiny hesitations apart, the pianist kept the “spin” of the piece going most beguilingly throughout. She allowed the more declamatory “trio” section enough heft and space to point the contrasts before gliding, gossamer-like back into the reprise of the diaphanously-woven opening.

As with the recital’s first two items, the contrast with the next pianist and repertoire (Beethoven’s Op.109) was almost palpable. Nicole Ting was a “big” player with grandly-conceived gestures, some of which provided thrills and spills of an almost palpable order, though nothing unremarkable in the context of the pianist requiring the music to achieve its fantastic, virtuoso character. What inaccuracies and breakdowns there were in her playing could have been attributed to nerves as much as a “throwing caution to the winds” aspect (which I really enjoyed), and certainly didn’t conceal the fact that she “knew” how the music ought to go, even if she occasionally snatched at phrases in the Op.109’s second movement. I relished the wholeheartedness of her playing amid all of the thrills and spills.

And the Chopin Scherzo which followed was a tour de force – here was a young player already “tagging” these classic pieces of music as if wanting to create a brave new world of her own. Once more I felt invigorated by her approach, being put in touch by her with the piece’s originality and power and inherent danger. Of course, one can achieve these things with a lower attrition rate than here, and I would hope she would be able to eventually achieve even more “finish” in her presentations – though ideally, not at the expense of those qualities which enable the listener to sit up and take notice of what the music is actually trying to say.

Finally, fluent, and sparking playing of a high order was given us by Xing Wang, with Debussy’s delectable “Children’s Corner” Suite. Apart from a tendency to rush the music in places (she made, for me, a little too much of the “mechanus” aspect of “Dr.Gradus ad Parnassum” and could have entrusted the effect more to the tongue-in-cheek aspect of the music’s natural “spin”, rather than to speed) she evoked these childhood vignettes with real feeling,  dreaming sweet dreams with Jimbo, for example, and also dancing exuberantly with the snowflakes.

Again, I thought Golliwog’s Cakewalk a bit too mechanical – there’s a delicious drollery to be found in these rhythms which she will one day take the risk and put her trust in, and not perhaps feel the need to crank the piece along quite so much, which includes more playfulness in the piece’s ending.

Piano tutor Jian Liu expressed his pleasure to me at the recital’s end in working with these students – he was obviously proud of what they’d achieved, and of what they’d be able to go on and do, just as surely. The students’ enjoyment of and imaginative individual approach to what they played, was, I thought, a great and nicely-realised tribute to his tutorship and own example.





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