Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Aristo Sham Piano Recital: Review

ARISTO SHAM Piano Recital
Asia On The Edge Festival
Chamber, The Arts House
Friday (5 December 2008)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 8 December 2008.

When you are just 12 years of age and named one of the most prodigious pianistic talents in the world, you could be excused for indulging in some showboating. And there were more than ample opportunities in the hour-long recital by Hong Kong youngster Aristo Sham, winner of the prestigious Ettlingen (2006) and Gina Bachauer (2008) International Piano Competitions for Young Pianists.

Previous winners have included Lang Lang and Li Yundi, and if Sham’s trajectory is expertly guided, who is to say he will not go all the way to emulate their achievements? More importantly, the cherubic-looking young man showed that his stupendous technique is allied with a keen mind and superior musicality.

His way with Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue displayed more than just assured fingering and amazing facility. There was a sense that he had something valid to say, as every phrase and sonority showed the purpose and poise of one double his age. In the early Sonata in A flat major (D.557) by Schubert, he delighted in its big gestures and contrasts, yet unfailingly delivered a singing line while reliving its simple innocent joys. His young years were merely a statistic.
To be sure, there were showpieces galore too - those competition warhorses calculated to score with juries and audiences. Copland’s The Cat And Mouse had humour and subtlety over and above its outbursts of prestidigitation. Ginastera’s Three Argentinian Dances mixed lyricisim and percussiveness, rising to each ecstatic climax with requisite aplomb.

There were some wrong notes in Mendelssohn’s Rondo Capriccioso, probably precipitated by a flash-happy encroaching photographer, but this was soon forgotten with the feathery lightness of its fairy dance and immaculate octaves that closed the work. More pyrotechnics ignited in Moszkowski’s Spanish Caprice, where its rapidly repeated notes belied a genuine unalloyed exuberance that oozed from every pore. Two encores – one jazzy and one whimsical – closed the evening on a high.

Hong Kong – with its established infrastructure, cultural and pedagogical institutions in place – has produced worldwide winners among its young musicians. Could Singapore – with its emerging potential on the edge - be next?

Aristo Sham was presented by The Arts House as part of the Asia On The Edge Festival.

Aristo with his teacher Eleanor Wong.

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