Monday, 22 April 2013

VICTOR KHOR Piano Recital / Review

VICTOR KHOR Piano Recital
Yamaha Recital Hall, Marina Square
Saturday (20 April 2013)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 22 April 2013 with the title "Contemporary charms".

Yamaha Recital Hall is a little studio tucked in one corner of Marina Square, surrounded by furniture shops and boutiques. It comfortably seats 60 people and is the sort of milieu which local pianist Victor Khor thrives in. He prefers to play for small intimate groups of people, such as in dance practice rooms, cosy restaurants, private homes and the like.

His wide repertoire includes Bach, Russian Romantics and French impressionists, but his present preoccupation is tonal contemporary music. This 80-minute afternoon recital performed without a break, a follow-up to his well-received programme of Radiohead song transcriptions, was centred on piano music influenced by New Age pop culture and minimalism.

He opened with three pieces by China-born Australian composer Zhang Chi. Autumn In The Island is slow and contemplative, post-impressionist in style and tinged with the sparseness that reminded one of the Catalan composer Federico Mompou. Morning Lavender, cut from the same fabric, had some hints of Delius while the oddly titled Werewolf, though more animated in pace, was anything but fearsome.

The music did meander a little, but the audience was a patient one, responding to Khor’s sensitive musical insights with no little warmth. Two Japanese composers known for their film music were next. Joe Hisaishi’s Asian XTC was an Oriental melody all dressed up with pop leanings, while Ryuichi Sakamoto’s The Last Emperor struck several chords of recognition, the poignant music for the Oscar-winning Bertolucci movie an apt portrayal of fallen majesty and isolation.

Khor then played three selections from Between The Lines by the Belgian Jean-Philippe Collard-Neven, who is no relation of the famous French pianist Jean-Philippe Collard. The titular work itself brought out a hazy spectrum of colours, rising arc-like to a heady crescendo before receding. Shimmering, shifting hues and faster rhythms characterised Northern Lights and the concluding Falling Stars respectively.

These Singaporean premieres were made possible by a friendship struck up between pianist and composer through the universal medium of YouTube.

The most virtuosic work was Estonian Erkki-Sven Tüür’s three-movement Sonata, also the oldest, composed in 1985. Eclectic with multiple influences, what stuck in the mind were its kinetically charged pages, athleticism alternating with the tintinnabulation (bell-like sonorities) “patented” by his compatriot Arvo Pärt. The resonances and echoes from its succession of octaves, chords and clusters produced a quite hypnotic effect.

As an encore, Khor offered Sakamoto’s Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, a familiar favourite that was very well received. More importantly, he demonstrated that contemporary piano literature was not necessarily all about serialism and atonality, and could be very accessible when it chose to be.

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