Tuesday, 8 March 2011

CHOPIN WITHOUT CHOPIN / Albert Tiu Piano Recital / Review

Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concert Hall
Sunday (6 March 2011)

An edited version of this review was published
in The Straits Times on 8 March 2011
with the title "Brilliant tribute to Chopin".

From arguably the finest pianist resident in Singapore today came yet another thought-provoking piano recital, one that would not look out of place in the annual international piano festival. Albert Tiu, Filipino by birth and American by training, crafted his tribute to Frederic Chopin by performing some of the piano repertoire’s most daunting works inspired by the Polish master’s genius.

Leopold Godowsky wrote 53 Studies based on 26 of Chopin’s Études, by expanding and exploiting the limitless possibilities of counterpoint and harmony. Tiu’s delicious selection of five included some of the lesser known ones, opening and closing the set with a Mazurka and Polonaise respectively.

There were two studies based on the Black Key Étude (Op.10 No.5), nicknamed Tarantella and Capriccio, both coming off sounding unique and varied in character. Articulation was always spot on, and textures never smothered by over-pedalling. Overcoming the frightening multitudes of notes was a feat of digital dexterity and memory, but it was the fearless panache in delivery that remained topmost in the mind.

The dark and murky demeanour inhabiting the “Polonaise” Study was continued in the Russian Alexander Scriabin’s lone Polonaise (op.21). Here the portent of tragedy hinted at by Chopin-Godowsky was multiplied manifold, culminating in a powerful reading that reeked of angst and frayed nerves.

Chopin’s chordal and bell-laden Prélude in C minor (Op.28 No.20) provided the basis for two vastly differing sets of variations by Ferruccio Busoni and Sergei Rachmaninov. The former’s was far more compact and had the heady thrill of an emotional roller-coaster. Who could have thought of packing a fugue, waltz and whirlwind of effects within the space of a single minute? Its apparent schizophrenia was brilliantly realised in Tiu’s able hands.

The latter’s, ambitious and long-breathed, seemed like a preparatory effort for later masterpieces like the Third Piano Concerto and Paganini Rhapsody. Tiu treated it like a four movement sonata, rendering a coherence that prevented the score from sounding like some rambling sprawl.

From its opening Bachian doodle that rose arc-like to a crescendo of full-blooded Romantic outpourings, every variation was coloured imaginatively. True to form, Rachmaninov could never resist a valedictory variation in the glorious sunshine of a major key. Tiu chose the more brilliant (and vulgar) of the two endings to close. An astute choice which ensured the loud and prolonged applause he richly deserved.

1 comment:

Chang Tou Liang said...

Albert Tiu performed three encores:
1. The D flat major variation from Rachmaninov's Corelli Variations
2. Friedrich Gulda's Presto possibile
3. A reprise of the major key variation from Rachmaninov's Chopin Variations.