Friday, 20 November 2009


Esplanade Recital Studio
Tuesday (17 November 2009)

An edited version of this review was published in The Straits Times on 20 November 2009.

Stranger things have happened, but it took a French-trained Japanese pianist to pull off the belated World Premiere of Singaporean composer Tan Chan Boon’s (pictured below) Magnum Opus for the piano, Reminiscence. Originally commissioned for the Young Virtuoso Recital of the 2008 Singapore International Piano Festival, the 24-minute work in four linked movements was deemed unplayable by the pianist and dropped.

Contrapuntally dense and awkward for ten fingers it certainly was, but unplayable? Miyuki Washimiya eloquently brought out the multi-layered textures of the strolling introduction, with its passing resemblance to the African-American spiritual Deep River, and surmounted the three ensuing fugues with great lucidity. Hers was not merely a reading, but a solid interpretation revealing many fine details, sculpted with the pristine care of a lapidary.

Making little concessions for the listener, this was “Charles Ives meets Busoni in Singapore”, a thorny devil of a masterpiece which could easily be hailed as Tan’s Fantasia Contrappuntistica, a major landmark in the Singaporean piano repertory.

The rest of Washimiya’s programme was far more audience-friendly, beginning with Mozart’s popular Sonata in A major (K.331). The opening Theme And Variations could have been inflected with a greater degree of dynamic variety, but the Minuet and familiar Turkish Rondo romped home with aplomb.

Her Chopin set was nicely shaped, reliable rather than revelatory, but the left hand octaves in the "Heroic" Polonaise (Op.53) were remarkable for sheer stamina and power. The first half closed with two Rachmaninov Préludes; the G minor number (Op.23 No.5) was aristocratic and well-judged – putting Lang Lang’s self-serving performance from 2007 to shame – while its counterpart in C sharp minor (Op.3 No.2) pealed with genuine Slavic clangour.

Washimiya’s true sympathies lay in Latino music, displaying much flair and sensitivity in three dances – including the indestructible Malaguena - by Cuban Ernesto Lecuona, and her encores of Granados’ Andaluza and Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance well and truly brought down the house.

In between these, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue rocked with the swagger of a jazzman, even if the excisions she made in the score left out some of the juiciest bits. Given the wide-ranging selections over two hours, there was little to complain but much to celebrate.

This piano recital was sponsored by Kris Tan and Lim Liang Chuan in celebration of their 21st wedding anniversary.

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