Monday, 6 September 2010

A Musical Trail / Song Ziliang Piano Recital / Review

Song Ziliang, Piano
Esplanade Recital Studio
Friday (3 September 2010)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 6 September 2010.

It sometimes pays to pursue your studies in completely different worlds, immersing in diverse cultural spheres. Young Singaporean pianist Song Ziliang, who trained in Moscow and London, prefaced his pieces in an eclectic recital by addressing the audience in both English and Russian.

As if that was not impressive enough, his playing assimilated a wealth of musical influences, more than repaying the debt of faith invested in his scholarships, sponsored by local charity Trailblazer Foundation.

The Bach-Busoni Chaconne that began the evening revealed a probing mind, one allying an acute ear for wide-ranging sonorities with a meticulous technical facility. That the concert venue had a booming over-reverberance helped generate an organ-like brilliance to the playing.

For Brahms’ Three Intermezzi (Op.117), he quietened considerably, lending an autumnal repose to these late and mellow gems. His view of Chopin’s Fourth Ballade had passion and anguish in full measure. Without forsaking the melodic line, its compelling journey built to a tumultuous climax, overcoming the fearsome coda with thunderous confidence.

In Ravel’s deceptively tricky Valses nobles et sentimentales, he made an effort to inject into each of the eight dances a life of its own. Quixotic, sensual, coquettish and impetuous impulses were part of his variegated palette, yet he fluently strung them together as a satisfying whole.

The Russian Alexander Scriabin’s Fifth Sonata saw even more swinging between extremes, from a barely-aroused languidness to soaring flights of fancy. Packing in an overkill of notes, the result was often congested and plethoric, but the primal screams in this poem of ecstacy were vividly realised.
Song Ziliang with his fellow London
college student Denise Lee.
Most recitals would have ended with this cliffhanger, but the addition of young Singaporean composer Denise Lee’s Within The Horizon (2009) to close was a special touch. If Scriabin had lived a several decades beyond his 43 years, he might have envisaged something of this rarefied soundscape.

Being inspired by views of the horizon off the Cornwall coast, described by the composer as a belt rather than a line, hers was a spectrum of aural effects. Of Messiaenic birdcalls, vaporous mirages and distant squalls, the overall vision was one that rewards further listens.

The Russophile in Song yielded a further encore, Van Cliburn’s delectable arrangement of Moscow Nights. Bolshoi kharasho, they might say in Russian, or “grandly good”!

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