Monday, 17 October 2011

Community Concert: Around The World In 60 Minutes / Albert Lin / Review

Pasir Ris Elias Community Club
Saturday (15 November 2011)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 17 October 2011 with the title "Community club recital a success".

Entitled “A Voyage of Piano Discovery”, this piano recital by Albert Lin was a brave attempt to bring the arts into the heartlands, by performing at a People's Association community club. The setting was an unusual but totally informal one, with the club’s badminton hall converted into a makeshift concert venue. A 6-foot Essex grand piano stood on stage with the audience seated on risers, as if witnessing a basketball match.

It was also a different experience for the pianist, more accustomed to the stages of Esplanade, who began the evening with a 20-minute talk on the social history of the piano, its development and virtuoso practitioners. Playing for an audience of mostly children and their parents, he kept the programme light, opening with the first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

He possesses a silky touch for this intimate, moody music, and sensing its soporific effect on his listeners, changed the order of programme to showcase three of Earl Wild’s Virtuoso Etudes on Gershwin songs next. His prestidigitation in Embraceable You and Fascinatin’ Rhythm immediately made one sit up and listen.

The Romantic thread continued with Liszt’s Liebestraume No.3 and Chopin’s Nocturne in D flat major (Op.27 No.2), where heart-on-sleeve lyricism reigned. Chopin’s Military Polonaise (Op.40 No.1) is familiar fare on CD recordings, but how often does one get to hear it in concert?

Choosing to perform Arcadi Volodos finger-busting transcription of Mozart’s Turkish Rondo instead of the original was always a gamble. A series of lapses, triggered off by incessant chattering of children near the stage, derailed the performance, prompting Lin to call for a five-minute breather.

Normal service was restored with Leopold Godowsky’s little waltz Alt Wien (Old Vienna). “Simple” miniatures such as this and Spanish composer Federico Mompou’s Song & Dance No.7 revealed the performer at his most sympathetic. Yet it was outright virtuosity that closed the concert, as he barnstormed through Baba Yaga’s Hut and The Great Gate of Kiev from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition with fearless aplomb.

An unusually lively Question and Answer session ensued post-concert, with a number of posers coming from children. Even the pianist’s mother contributed on his practising habits and how young people may be musically stimulated. The most telling question, from a parent, was also the most welcome one: When will you be performing next?

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