Stella Lu (piano)
for Pataka Friends
Bach: Prelude and Fugue in D minor, Book 2 of ‘The 48’, BWV 875
Chopin: Nocturne in G , Op.37, no.2
Beethoven: Sonata no.5
Chopin: Polonaise in C# minor, Op.26 no.1
Nielsen: Five Piano Pieces, Op.3
Madeleine Dring (1823-1977): Blue Air
Helen Smith Community Room, Pataka Art + Museum, Porirua
Sunday 19 July 2015, 2.30 pm
The first observation was of Stella Lu’s extreme youth; I understand she is still at school, yet she passed her Grade 8 piano examination in 2012. The second observation was that the walls of the Helen Smith room have been painted since I reviewed Ludwig Treviranus’s concert there two years ago, and they now appear to be covered with a matt paint, not the glossy paint they had then, which made the sound too bright and brittle at times. In addition, the placement of the piano, and the audience chairs, was different. I did not experience that over-brightness this time; the instrument sounded very well, although occasionally the fortissimos were a little too loud for the size of the venue.
Stella Lu appears to be quite an entrepreneur, putting on her own concerts and playing with other groups. A couple of matters to be borne in mind: it is usual to stand and acknowledge the audience’s applause after each item, not just at the end, and it is good for the audience to be able to see the performer’s face while she is playing, so a hairstyle that allows this (such as a pony-tail) can be the means to enhance the audience’s rapport with the player. It may also be to Stella’s advantage to have the piano stool a little lower. The convention is (with good reason, I believe) that the thighs should be parallel with the floor. All the pieces were played from printed scores.
The Bach chosen was quite difficult, and playing without resort to the sustaining pedal was most commendable. Stella brought out the themes well, particularly in the Prelude. She has a good piano technique, and plenty of flexibility in her wrists and fingers. A nice feature was that before playing, she paid tribute to her teacher, who was not able to be present. The room was not full, but nevertheless, the audience was of quite a healthy size.
The Chopin Nocturne provided a complete contrast, and was played with some delightful pianissimos, and much expression.
Beethoven’s fifth sonata is one that I do not know at all well. Stella maintained the interest, despite a few fumbles in the first movement. It is relatively short, but full of surprises and innovations. Stella exhibited a good range of dynamics, and the adagio molto third movement was very expressive.
Nielsen’s five pieces proved to be delightful and varied. The first, ‘Folketone’ was charming in a darkly northern way. By contrast, ‘Humoreske’ was very bright, like Scandinavian sprites dancing. However, the pedal muddied their activities a little.
‘Arabeske’ had alternate soft and loud passages; perhaps this was the naughty sprites getting up to mischief. ‘Mignon’ was full of heady, sultry perfume, while the final dance, ‘Altedans’ continued that feeling in a dreamy mood, after opening with ambiguous tonalities. Stella played them all with clarity and feeling. However, the final piece, much the most contemporary on the programme, suffered a little from too much pedal. It was another sultry piece, in a swing rhythm, and was a bright, relaxing way to end the recital.
There seemed to be a lot of noisy tweaking and rattling from the paper programmes – perhaps it might be possible for the promoters to find a softer grade of paper.
This was a worthy start to the Friends of Pataka’s winter series of concerts.