Monday, 15 July 2013


Followers of this blog will probably remember Zhao Yang Ming Tian, the impressive young pianist from Hainan Island, China, who studied for two years at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts under the tutelage of Benjamin Loh. He has since moved on to the University of Kansas, where he has won a string of prizes in piano competitions. It was a pleasure to welcome him back to Singapore. albeit for a few days, where he performed a recital at the Cairnhill residence of Swiss pianophile Guy Hentsch and Geoffery Yu. 

His was a very interesting programme of Romantic works and rare transcriptions from piano's Golden Age, which has captivated him, and also his audience on the evening. He began with Doucet's Chopinata, a work that combines melodies from Chopin's Polonaise Op.53, Fantaisie-Impromptu Op.66 and Waltz Op.64 No.2, written in a manner a very good lounge pianist might. It was very vulgar but very entertaining, a sort of ice-breaker which led to some real Chopin, a glowing reading of the Nocturne in B major Op.62 No.1. 

The major work of the first half was Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales, and Ming Tian was able to bring out the colours and nuances from its varied dances. The final waltz was an exercise in nostalgia, as fragments from the earlier waltzes make short, fleeting appearances within the general haziness of its movement,  like memories of a dream landscape. He closed with that notorious finger-twister that is Paul de Schlözer's Étude in A flat major, which Rachmaninov used to warm up his fingers before playing.  

The second half was equally interesting, beginning with Mozart's Variations from Gluck's Unser dummer pöbel meint, a work which Tchaikovsky orchestrated as the final movement of his Mozartiana Suite. It is rather long and repetitious but Ming Tian kept it interesting with lots of witty and surprising touches, as if relating a joke with many parts. There were more transcriptions galore with Georges Cziffra's wicked treatment of Brahms's Hungarian Dance No.5, which begins with a nonchalant feint followed some serious barnstorming, the best which the Hungarian entertainer could muster.

The recital closed with Paul Pabst's Paraphrase on Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, a favourite party trick of Shura Cherkassky's. This is probably the first performance in Singapore of this potboiler, but what a winner it is. Ming Tian can certain overwhelm with its outsized pianism, but it is his sensitivity that impresses the most. Listening to the amazing counterpoint with Lensky's Aria played on the left hand, with vestiges of the waltz sounding like a dream on the right hand, was one of the finest moments of an enjoyable evening. Needless to say, the audience gave him a vociferous ovation which he truly deserved. 

Host of the evening Guy Hentsch has some words of thanks for Ming Tian.

Two wonderful young pianists: Zhao Yang Ming Tian and Azariah Tan.

Some of the best young piano talents on the island: (From L) Azariah Tan, Bina Jung, Zhao Yang Ming Tian, Lawrence Holmefjord-Sarabi and Clarence Lee.  

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