Friday, 21 October 2016


SIFOM Ensemble
Singapore International Festival of Music
Chamber, The Arts House
Wednesday (19 October 2016)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 21 October 2016

New music has the perpetual problem of attracting audiences, and presenters are usually mindful of engaging patrons with various outreach efforts to win them over. This concert of new Singaporean music however did nothing of the sort as its presentation was lamentable and unacceptably poor.

There were neither composer biographies nor programme notes provided, just a host who happened to be Paris-based conductor Marlon Chen merely reading out titles of performed pieces. Even the names of performers were omitted. Strike One. Two works on the printed programme by John Sharpley and Koh Cheng Jin were discarded with no reasons given. The compensation was a  complimentary drink offered on the house. Strike Two.

Without fanfare, the 65-minute long concert (originally marketed as 90 minutes) began with Chen Zhangyi's Sandcastles. Violinist Arisa Ikeda and pianist April Foo gave an evocative reading with lyrical lines accompanied by rippling keyboard textures, like waves gently lapping on a serene tropical beach.

Bertram Wee's Love Songs for piano trio was sterner than its title suggested. Its 5 movements were atonal and dissonant, with the idea that the course of true love is never easy. Violinist Rida Sayfiddinov, cellist Dzhama Saidkarimov and pianist Thomas Ang covered a full gamut of 20th century technical devices including harmonics, slides, brusque pizzicatos and heavy chords which cemented his case in no uncertain terms.  

A surreal soundscape was created for Ding Jian Han's Slow Jogging On A Not-So-Silent Night, scored for flute (Jeremy Lim), clarinet (Andrew Constantino), violin, cello and piano (Foo), conducted by Marlon Chen. No actual notes were played in its opening minutes, comprising only the sound of air passing through channels or over strings. This soon cystallised into tones, both short and long-held, which generated a Zen-like calm and mysticism.  

Newly commissioned was Mick Lim's #9 (Sharp Nine), a brief work for pipa (Chua Yew Kok), zhongruan (Loi Eevian), violin, viola (Ho Qian Hui) and cello, which ran a course of plucked notes and pizzicatos. The first work to actually resound with a distinctively Oriental idiom was Ho Chee Kong's Echoes Of Fall for marimba (Kevin Castelo), clarinet, gambus (Loi on ruan) and cello. There were virtuoso roles for each in this enjoyable serenade-like work, which could have come from Central Asia.  

The last and most substantial work was Tan Yuting's Chinatown, a song cycle with texts by Tan Chee Lay featuring talented and expressive soprano Angel Cortez. Its scoring with strings, winds, piano and percussion was lush, and two central fast movements took on the form of rhythmic dances. The subjects involved a culinary paradise and a back-alley barber, but Cortez's Chinese pronunciation was indecipherable, again not helped by the lack of texts or translations. Strike Three and you're out.  

Good music performed by dedicated musicians will always endure, but the cause of new music was not honoured with proper contexts and annotations on this occasion, thus coming off as a wasted opportunity.  

Thursday, 20 October 2016


THOMAS ANG Piano Recital
Singapore International Festival of Music
Gallery II, The Arts House
Tuesday (18 October 2016)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 20 October 2016 with the title "Mix of obscure and familiar". 

One important aspect of this year's Singapore International Festival of Music is its focus on some of the nation's most talented young musicians. One who has been tipped to be a future super-virtuoso in the mould of the great French-Canadian pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin is Thomas Ang, presently studying in London's Royal Academy of Music.

His piano recital was an eclectic mix of familiar and obscure work, the sort that find their way to the Rarities of Piano Music Festival at Schloss vor Husum in Germany. To sell tickets, popular works had to be programmed, so Ang began with Chopin's Third Ballade and three Études from Op.10.

One is not immediately drawn to his prodigious technique, but rather a directness of expression. He does not gild the lily, allowing instead for music speak for itself. The Ballade was crafted with care and good taste, building up to a passionate climax. The studies were tossed off like putty in his fingers, their brilliance on the Bösendorfer grand coming off as over-glaring in the reverberant hall.

The last of these was the Black Key Etude (Op.10 No.5), which was the subject of two further studies by the afore-mentioned Hamelin and Leopold Godowsky. The psychedelic and acid-infused take of the former was tampered by the more traditional contrapuntal fairground that was the latter. Ang swallowed these challenges whole, and followed up with the staple of all virtuosos worth their salt, Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit.

This triptych of tone poems is considered one of the most fearsome in the entire piano literature. The watery realm of Ondine and the bow-legged scampering of Scarbo were brushed off with splashy colour and manic ferocity but it was the slow movement, Le Gibet (The Gallows) which held the most fascination. Ang's take was slower than usual, but the repetitive tolling B flat octave of a distant church bell was totally hypnotic.

The second half opened with Bach's Prelude & Fugue in F sharp minor (Well-Tempered Clavier Book 2), where Ang demonstrated her was equally adept in standard repertoire. His Bach was particularly clear-headed and transparently illuminated.

Rarities took over with two Singapore premieres, of Russian pianist-composer Samuil Feinberg's song The Dream (in Ang's own transcription) and the Second Sonata. Dissonant and piquant harmonies dominated both works, the latter being a thorny single movement of volatile and elusive emotions, heavily influenced by the mystically-inclined Scriabin.

As a palate cleanser, two short movements from Tchaikovsky's Children's Album revealed a more tender side. Rachmaninov's transcription of Tchaikovsky's Lullaby, filled with smouldering melancholy and surprising harmonic twists, and Ang's transcription of Tchaikovsky's song When The Day Dawns completed the highly satisfying two-hour recital.

That last piece and his encore, an original transcription of a Schubert Lied, showed Ang to be following the footsteps of another legendary Golden Age pianist, the late great Earl Wild.  

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, October 2016)

SG50 Celebration Fund / ****1/2

Here is a neat collection of short pieces for violin and piano from that “golden generation” of Singaporean composers born in the 1980s to early 1990s. The best-known of the five composers featured is Chen Zhangyi, who was the first local composer to be commissioned by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra for its overseas concert tours since the 1980s. 

His Sandcastles is dreamy and builds up with waves of sound, while Ground from his single-act opera Window Shopping (for solo piano) ambles like a jazzy improvisation. Phang Kok Jun, a favourite of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra's, offered two solos. Hustle Bustle (violin) rustles with a frenetic Paganini-like quality while Wind Chimes (piano) resounds in the tintinnabulation of bells.

Chew Jun An's Lucid Dreamer conjures a sense of isolation, while In The Wind, A Lonely Leaf (violin), a pentatonic tune takes on a life of its own through its discursive 10 minutes. Tan Yuting's still and evocative Water uses recorded sounds and Fantasy Lights captures a dazzling nocturnal view of the skyline from the Singapore Flyer. Wynne Fung's In A Quiet Grey lyrically fantasises on clouds and skies, and ponders on their ephemeral and ever-changing nature. 

National Violin Competition champion Alan Choo possesses the technical know-how to match the thorniest of scores, and his sympathetic partnership with pianist Lin Hengyue scores on all counts. Produced for the SG50 celebrations, this is a souvenir to treasure.

Complete Works for Solo Piano
ABC Classics 481 1181 (2 CDs) / ****1/2

If there were a composer who fathered a distinctive “Australian sound” in music, that would be the Tasmania-born Peter Sculthorpe (1929-1914). His music sympathetically combined 20th century modernism with Asian (particularly Japanese and Balinese) and Australian aboriginal influences. 

His output for piano, dating from 1945 to 2011, reflects that eclecticism and exoticism. In this complete edition, there are first performances of his juvenilia, mostly short tonal pieces from his years of study at the Melbourne Conservatory. A more personal voice is later heard in his Sonatina (1954) and Sonata (1963).

The Japanese influence comes in Night Pieces (1971), Landscape (1971), Koto Music I & II (1973 & 1976), while his stock in trade Aboriginal sound – filled with dreamy resonances, echoes and silences – are best appreciated in Djilile (1986), Nocturnal (1983/89) and Harbour Dreaming (2000). 

His Little Passacaglia (2004) was written memory of victims of the 2002 Bali Bombings, while his final and longest work Riverina (2011) is a summation of all his styles in five movements, including quote from Home Sweet Home and the Chinese song Molihua. Australian pianist Tamara-Anna Cislowska has lived with Sculthorpe's music since her early teens and is a most persuasive advocate. The recorded sound is also excellent.   

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

...AND THERE WAS NOTHING / TO Ensemble / Review

TO Ensemble
Singapore International Festival of Music
Play Den, The Arts House
Sunday (16 October 2016)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 18 October 2016 with the title "Unique brand of crossover jazz".

Trust locally-trained and mostly self-taught composer and jazz-cum-crossover pianist Tze Toh to come up with yet another post-apocalyptic and end-of-days scenario to spice up his latest concert. Having gained a certain notoriety from his Land With No Sun series of concerts, his most recent offering ...And There Was Nothing had as its back drop another science fiction-inspired story involving cosmology, eschatology and artificial intelligence.

To the casual concert-goer, all this might come across as mumbo jumbo, but it was merely an elaborate front for an unusual piano quintet that was in effect a 10-movement modern jazz symphony. For this concert, the ensemble was deliberately pared down to involve only five soloists (including Toh on the piano) and with no accompanying ripieno group.

This spareness worked to its advantage, as the sound of each instrument became more transparent. Christina Zhou's violin contrasted with the lower tones of Benjamin Wong's viola, both playing the traditional classical string parts. The main leitmotifs and themes for the work was cast in G minor, which accomodated Lazar Sebastine's Carnatic violin which had a more ornamental role.       

Teo Boon Chye's saxophone was the leading star, and it was he who opened in Earth, the first chapter. His was a dark and dusky tone, one which experimented with atonal lines at the outset but ultimately reverted to more familiar tonalities.

The first four chapters were oppressive in mood, as if portending a bleak fate for the planet and mankind, and it was in Chapter Five: Beginning / Pan Gu when the atmosphere lightened finally. Sebastine turned percussionist, swapping his violin for a drum, over which Teo's sax and Wong's viola soared unimpeded in this most exuberant movement.  

Toh was ever conscious that textures of each instrument were to be clearly differentiated. In Chapter Six, which had seven separate titles, a drone from the viola contrasted with caterwauling from the violin, while the next chapter saw both instruments in a tender duet. Elsewhere, the Western violin and Indian violin, both operating on different scales, duelled for primacy.

The Seventh to Ninth Chapters had no titles, except for question marks. Here the future of life on earth was being pondered; are we doomed or will we be saved? Chapter Eight saw all five soloists thick in action, and the ancient concerto grosso of the baroque period was all but being relived.

By now, most would have been totally confused by the narrative of the work, but the Tenth and final Chapter (no question marks and deliberately left blank) was to prove a watershed. Gloomy and troubling G minor had morphed into a reassuring G major at the end, thus suggesting salvation at hand.         

TO Ensemble's audience was a small but receptive one, and given Toh's zeal in proselytising his unique brand of crossover-jazz-world music, this should change sooner than later.


Singapore International Festival of Music
Gallery II, The Arts House
Sunday (16 October 2016)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 18 October 2016 with the title "Passion was all that counted".

It is not a coincidence that a number of foreign-born pianists have chosen to make Singapore their home. Thomas Hecht and Tedd Joselson (USA), Albert Tiu (Philippines), Boris Kraljevic (Montenegro) and Yao Xiao Yun (China) have all contributed to our rich musical scene here. The name of young Ukrainian pianist Kseniia Vokhmianina, who studied at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and now a faculty member of the School of The Arts, should also be added to this list.

Her hour-long recital at the Singapore International Festival of Music was a testament to exceptional teaching and artistry of the highest order. Beginning with the First Book of Preludes by Claude Debussy, she revealed a wide range of colours, shades and nuances from an instrument which the composer described as “a box of hammers and strings”.

Well-judged pedalling was the key to Dancers Of Delphi, which conjured an air of grace and poise. Misty hues in Sails, swirling eddies of Wind On The Plains, a mystical aura that enveloped Sounds And Scents Mingle In The Evening Air, and utter desolation in Footprints In The Snow, all pointed to an acute sense of feeling different moods and styles. Debussy's evocative titles in French had been added to each of these pieces after they had been completed.

A comprehensive technique is sine qua non for the 12 pieces, and there was no shying away from the pummelling force required for What The West Wind Saw or huge sonorous chords that surmounted The Sunken Cathedral. All these were supplied in abundance by Vokhmianina, not to mention the simplicity of Girl With The Flaxen Hair, and rhythmic subtleties in Interrupted Serenade, Dance Of Puck and the jazzy swagger of Minstrels.

Singaporean composer and Cultural Medallion recipient Kelly Tang's Elegy (2015) came in complete contrast from the earlier fare. It is the slow central movement from his Piano Concerto In Three Movements, composed for the SG50 celebrations and first performed by Lang Lang at the National Stadium.

Written in memory of the nation's founding first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, it was a heartfelt tribute that included some bluesy harmonies a la Keith Jarrett and the curious inclusion of the Fate motif from Rachmaninov's First Symphony. Perhaps the latter was an acknowledgement that from failure (as the symphony's disastrous premiere was) sometimes comes a destiny of hope.

The recital concluded with Alexander Scriabin's single-movement Fifth Sonata, also known as “Poem Of Ecstasy”. Its rumbling opening bars and volcanic eruptions are startling, and Vokhmianina delivered this with true vigour and conviction.

Rarely has a work seen the piano's keys being caressed and yet brutalised within the same page. For a while, she played safe with its orgiastic outpourings when a more unfettered approach would have been preferred. However when push came to shove, she let it rip and a few missed notes were the result. No matter, passion was what counted most and there was no shortage of it.    

With her piano guru Boris Kraljevic.
With Singaporean composer Kelly Tang.

Monday, 17 October 2016

BRUCKNER MASS NO.3 / Singapore Symphony Orchestra & Chorus / Review

Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Singapore Symphony Choruses
Esplanade Concert Hall
Saturday (15 October 2016)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 17 October 2016 with the title "Sublime farewell".

Thirty-two years is a lifetime when one considers the services to choral music by the outgoing Choral Director of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra Lim Yau. A successor has been named but his legacy, comprising two terms of 16 years each, is a massive one to live up to. His first term from 1981 to 1997, as Chorus Master of the Singapore Symphony Chorus (SSC), focused on building core concert repertoire with works like Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Handel's Messiah, Orff's Carmina Burana and Mendelssohn's Elijah.

The years 2000 to the present saw SSC augmented by college and community choirs to form a mega-chorus. This enabled monumental works like Mahler's Symphony Of A Thousand, Walton's Belshazzar's Feast, Britten's War Requiem and MacMillan's Seven Last Words to receive  Singapore premieres at Esplanade Concert Hall.

Lim's final concert was typical of his innovative programming, juxtaposing two contrasted but spiritually connected works, both receiving first-ever performances here. The still-living Estonian Arvo Part's Te Deum revealed a variety of choral intimacy that was close to his heart. Despite the posture of praise, it is more subdued than exultant, building upon unison chants and gentle triads which ring gently on the ear.

This stock-in-trade tintinnabuli was ever-present, but impressive was the evenness of unison singing from the three choirs, including a semi-chorus on centrestage. The minutest of pianissimos was no easy task of control, but Lim's charges were all ears and one in voice. The orchestra's string textures were sparse but well-marshalled, serving more as interludes than outright accompaniment.

Shane Thio's minimalist piano contribution and Lu Heng's manning of electronic tape and ison (a Byzantine drone) added to the mystique, which coursed through its seemingly timeless half-hour duration. A solo soprano voice was a balm in the closing pages, with the semi-chorus' reassuring Sanctus as a quiet invocation of parting. 

With woodwinds, brass and percussion joining in for Bruckner's Third Mass in F minor, one's penchant for sound and bluster would soon be sated. However this is a far more nuanced work than one might expect from the provincial Austrian who played the organ and idolised Wagner. Again it were the quieter sections which impressed, beginning with the serious demeanour of worship that opened the Kyrie Eleison.

Ecstatic joy in the Gloria and Credo were soon to come, and the sheer volume built up for the shattering climaxes were a pleasure to behold. And there was still the luxury of four imported soloists, soprano Alexandra Steiner, mezzo-soprano Celeste Haworth, tenor Jussi Myllys and bass Alexander Vassiliev, who had short but important parts in key verses. Ultimately it was conductor Lim's choruses which stole his final show.

From the absolutely beautiful Benedictus to the final Agnus Dei, here was a sublime close with Rachel Walker's brief oboe solo and a serene walk into the sunset. How apt it was for Lim's inspired musicianship and leadership to do the talking. If one pondered how this professed non-Christian could be so sympathetic in Christian music, the answer would be this: Music is his true religion and creed.  

Behold The Man.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, October 2016)

COKE 24 Preludes
15 Variations & Finale
Somm 0147 / ****1/2

Spare a thought for English composer Roger Sachaverell Coke (1912-1972), a contemporary of Benjamin Britten and composer of six piano concertos and three symphonies, who has virtually been forgotten. He shared a piano teacher with the future Queen Elizabeth II and a composition teacher with Singaporean composer Kam Kee Yong. He was also a good friend of Rachmaninov's, whose composition style influenced his own.

Witness his 24 Preludes for piano, laid out in two separate sets (Op.33 and 34) between 1938 and 1941, which are rich in late Romantic sensibilities and harmonies, dark and brooding in demeanour. Running about 50 minutes in duration, they are longer than Chopin and Scriabin's Preludes but less discursive than Rachmaninov's own. 

The 15 Variations & Finale (Op.37) has the potential of being a classic. It is imaginatively written, with precedents in Mendelssohn's Variations Serieuses and Rachmaninov's Chopin Variations.

The young English pianist Simon Callaghan who presents these premiere recordings is clearly a virtuoso and excellent guide in this arcane repertoire. Like the music of York Bowen and Nikolai Medtner, once scandalously neglected, Coke's day would surely come.   

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Decca 483 0201 / ****1/2

Long before American Idol, William Hung and Susan Boyle, there was Florence Foster Jenkins. The elderly and wealthy socialite captured the imagination of an entire nation by selling out Carnegie Hall in 1944 despite having the unenviable reputation of being the “world's worst singer”. 

The word “despite” might easily be replaced by “because of” as her legendary badness was genuinely entertaining, as portrayed in the Steven Frears directed movie that bears her name. There are no FFJ original tracks (she recorded several with Melotone) in the original soundtrack, but the multiple Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep hits execrable heights with true gusto, partnered by Simon Hellberg's piano who plays the original accompanist Cosme McMoon. 

As if to illustrate the gulf between hubristic ambition and actual insight, there are two tracks of Delibes' Bell Song from Lakme, first sung by coloratura soprano Aida Garifullina (who played Lily Pons in the movie) followed by Streep's classic FFJ. The original music by Alexandre Desplat conducting the London Metropolitan Orchestra captures the big band sound of 1930s and 40s America. 

For pure escapism, Streep's approximations of Johann Strauss's Adele's Laughing Song (Die Fledermaus), McMoon's Like A Bird and Valse Caressante, and Mozart's Queen Of The Night Aria (The Magic Flute) will have one in stitches. But spare a thought for the neighbours, so keep the volume down.  

Monday, 10 October 2016

GRAND RUSSIAN / ALBERT TIU Piano Recital / Review

ALBERT TIU Piano Recital
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concert Hall
Friday (7 October 2016)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 10 October 2016 with the title "Passionate rendition of Russian rarities".

What makes Russian Romantic music so attractive and compelling that a large audience was enticed to the Conservatory on a Friday evening to attend a recital comprising two piano sonatas which could rightly be considered rarities?

The names of Tchaikovsky (left) and Rachmaninov provided a clue, as both Russians composed tuneful works with emotions firmly emblazoned on their sleeves. Pathos and tragedy are writ large in their often overwrought scores such that listeners are put through a wringer and come out feeling a spiritual catharsis. Just like a good movie. Or maybe it was the name of Albert Tiu, surely the most adventurous and thematically sophisticated pianist in Singapore today.

It was really a bit of both, as he began his recital with Tchaikovsky's Grand Sonata in G major Op.37. Big chords dominated the opening movement, delivered with fearless panache but tempered by a Schumannesque lyricism which made contrasts all the more apparent. The shortcoming was not Tiu's but Tchaikovsky's, because the repetitious piece in four movements which ran past the half-hour mark seemed to go on a bit too long.

The perpetual movement in the 3rd movement's Scherzo provided a worthwhile diversion but that was too short-winded. It was left for the Finale to combine the extremes  - with more loud notes and prestidigitation – leading to a vertiginous climax before bringing down the house.

This Tchaikovsky-Rachmaninov tandem was strategic in other ways. Tchaikovsky was Rachmaninov's mentor and musical “father”. Both their grand sonatas were in the same key as the grand piano concertos they were yet to compose, as well as being written-out premonitions.

Rachmaninov's First Piano Sonata in D minor Op.28 that occupied the second half was even longer, but in Tiu's hands, that never became an issue. The brooding and ruminative opening predicted his Third Piano Concerto, and Tiu built up a strong case by drawing the listener into the unsettling heart of this very personal music.

The oft-quoted association of this symphonically conceived work with the Faust legend is apt, as its three movements seemed to reflect the conflicted personas of Faust, Gretchen and Mephistopheles. While the 1st movement struggled with turmoil and upheaval, the slow 2nd movement was a calming and tender portrait, while the finale was a devilish hell-for-leather ride into the abyss.

In each of these, Tiu's views were highly characterised in the gripping narrative, with each movement carved out with a granite-like assuredness and inexorability. There was hardly a dropped note let alone a moment's loss of concentration. There have only been three complete performances of this work in Singapore in living memory. Tiu gave two of these, including the local premiere in 2004. If anything, this last epic reading surpassed his first in terms of passion and volatility.     

Taking a break from barnstorming, his encore promised something totally different: Percy Grainger's Irish Tune From County Derry, popularly known as Danny Boy. After Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, it came like a blast of fresh air.


Wednesday, 5 October 2016

CD Reviews (The Straits Times. October 2016)

Centaur 3503 / *****

The Philippines-born and Singapore-based pianist Albert Tiu has come up with another winner in his second solo album on the American Centaur label. The Classical Elements comprises four suites of five pieces each, inspired by the ancient notion of Earth, Air, Water and Fire as the four pillars of the natural world. 

Each suite includes one of Luciano Berio's Encores, entitled Erdenklavier, Luftklavier, Wasserklavier and Feuerklavier respectively, which are surprisingly accessible short pieces. Debussy, the master of musical impressionism, is also sine qua non, with his Hills Of Anacapri, Wind On The Plains, Reflections In The Water and Fireworks as programming pivots.

Tiu's other selections are excellent, with warhorses by Liszt, Ravel and Rachmaninov, and rarities like Godowsky's Gardens Of Buitenzorg, Griffes' Night Winds, Ibert's Wind In The Ruins and Mompou's The Lake, all evocatively coloured. His touch is variegated and exquisitely weighted, and often each piece flows seamlessly into the next. 

All are virtuoso pieces, and he pulls out all stops in Louis Brassin's transcription of Wagner's Magic Fire Music from The Valkyrie and Scriabin's Vers La Flamme (Towards The Flame). The fever-pitch in this 80-minute recital is also mirrored by the psychedelic cover design. Simply unmissable. 


Piano Recital: Grand Russian
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concert Hall
Friday, 7 October 2016 at 7.30 pm
Free admission by Registration

Melodiya 10 02274 (2 CDs) / *****

The grossly underrated music of Russian composer Nikolai Medtner (1880-1951) has enjoyed a renaissance thanks to the advocacy of pianists like Nikolai Demidenko, Marc-Andre Hamelin and Hamish Milne. Medtner's own recordings however have pride of place, especially those of his three piano concertos which are classics of the late Romantic repertoire. 

Gathered in a single album for the first time, these deserve special acclaim for their authority and authenticity. Recorded in 1947 with The Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by George Weldon (Concerto No.1) and Issay Dobrowen (Concertos Nos.2 & 3), with sponsorship by the Maharajah of Mysore, these reveal Medtner as an adroit and mercurial pianist.

Medtner’s interpretations inform and influence the modern interpretation of his music far more than most other contemporary composer in their own compositions. The use of recurrent motifs lends tautness and unity despite the sprawling structure, and these repay more dividends than his close friend Rachmaninov's piano concertos on further listening. 

The Third Concerto, arguably his best, carries the subtitle “Ballade” and takes on an inexorable sweep through its three connected movements. This is astutely coupled with his rhapsodic Sonata-Ballade, a masterpiece of thematic development and counterpoint, which is similarly inspired. These performances are essentially listening for all true pianophiles.