Wednesday, 24 June 2009

4th Singapore International Piano Pedagogical Symposium: Piano Recital by Sebastian Koch / Review

Piano Recital by
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Orchestral Hall
Monday (22 June 2009)

The saying, “If you can’t perform, teach” is mightily unfair, especially when one considers music teachers who are also bona fide concert artists. The first recital at the 4th Singapore International Piano Pedagogy Symposium by the Bangkok-based French pianist Sebastian Koch was a case in point. His afternoon masterclass was prefaced by an enjoyable hour-long recital of Debussy and Chopin.

Understanding the sustaining pedal reveals secrets in painting the impressionistic sound world of Debussy’s Préludes. Koch’s selection of four pieces from Book One illustrated this art eloquently. The half-lights of Terraces Of Moonlit Audiences, inspired by a Kiplingesque scene of British India, was intimate as it was mysterious, while the legend of The Engulfed Cathedral built up to a tsunami-like climax, revelling in its ancient grandeur.

While more lightness could have been hoped for in Delphic Dancers and Wind On The Plains, there was little denying his metier as a skilful musical story-teller. The three movements of Estampes - evoking clangorous Javanese gamelans in the incense-laden Pagodas, sultry Evenings in Granada, and a rain-swept Tuileries in Gardens In The Rain - had all the colour and contrasts one could hope for.

Koch’s (left) Chopin was no less absorbing, with a string of seven Études - mostly from the Op.25 set - showcasing the length and breadth of the French Pole’s virtuosity in piano writing. His studies are the ultimate marriage of musical poetry and technical execution.

Not all were finger-breaking exercises, as central to this group were two contemplative numbers – in E flat minor (Op.10 No.6) and C sharp minor (Op.25 No.7) - laying bare Chopin’s deeply felt Slavic melancholy. Koch was no slouch in the swifter pieces; the arch-lyrical Aeolian Harp and gallop rhythms of the A flat and F major Études (Nos.1 & 3) were marvellously realised. Only the wings on the G flat major Butterfly Étude sounded unduly weighted.

Big artillery closed the set. The thunderous B minor Octave Étude (No.10) fired on all salvos, yet found tenderness in its central core, and the ferocious Winter Wind (No.11) stormed with its fearsome right hand torrent of flying notes. Koch was in complete command throughout, leaving one without any doubt that despite Chopin’s sickly and effete image, fire and brimstone was always in his belly.

1 comment:

Sebastien Koch Piano said...

thank you for your nice review, i was unaware of it until now, july 2103! Please contact me on my facebook page, thank you, Sebastien Koch