Azariah Tan Peng Chay has been awarded 1st prize in the Senior category of the Singapore National Piano Competition 2009. A student of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, 18-year-old Azariah was diagnosed to have progressive sensorineural hearing loss since early childhood and uses hearing aids while performing.
His showings in the competition were marked by intensely musical performances of Chopin's Scherzo No.2 in B flat minor (Op.31), Beethoven's Sonata in B flat major (Op.22), two Scarlatti sonatas, Rachmaninov's Prélude in E flat major (Op.23 No.6) and Liszt's Rigoletto Paraphrase. What was remarkable: his ability to vary tonal colour and shades within a single phrase, and always making the music sing.
In the finals held on Friday (11 December), the clarity displayed in the Rigoletto quartet - melody in the left hand so evenly balanced with filigree on the right hand - was simply amazing. In the first movement of Chopin's First Piano Concerto (accompanied on second piano by his teacher Albert Tiu), he played as if his life depended on it. There were no superficial or glib statements (so often heard in competitions of this sort), only the live-for-the-moment kind of musicianship which stands out like a beacon through expanses of darkness.
If there were a local version of Japanese Nobuyuki Tsujii's win at the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, this is it! Azariah's talent is a miracle of God, a story of courage against all odds and adversity beyond comparison.