Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Living With NATALIE NG Piano Recital / Review

NATALIE NG, Piano Recital
Living Room @ The Arts House
Monday (2 December 2013)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 4 December 2013 with the title "Young pianist unfazed by hyperactive toddler".

There are now many young and well-trained Singaporean pianists but solo piano recitals are still thin on the ground. So kudos go to Natalie Ng, a graduate of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and Leeds University, whose recital of intimate classics was the antithesis of the exploits of a certain Lang Lang a few nights before.

All of the works were programmed with literary inspirations in mind, from Milan Kundera, Petrarch, Shakespeare, A.E.Houseman and local authors like Lee Tzu Pheng and Phan Ming Yen.

Janacek’s The Virgin of Frydek from On An Overgrown Path opened with sombre chords, interspersed by lyrical musings accompanied by mellow tremolos. A surfeit of pedalling and hyper-resonant acoustics ensured that mistakes could be concealed but textural details were similarly blurred out, an unfortunate outcome.

In the three Petrarch Sonnets by Liszt which served as intervening chapters within the recital, every effort was put into ensuring clarity of the singing line. The ever-sensitive Ng succeeded even if the florid cadenzas were not always immaculately articulated.

The longer central work was Beethoven’s Tempest Sonata in D minor (Op.31 No.2), in which the contrasts between agitation and calm were well conveyed. There were moments of awkward hand-crossing in the central movement, as well the finale’s eternal perpetual motion to overcome, but these were not Ng’s greatest bugbears.

It must have been a trial to concentrate when there is a hyperactive toddler seated in the front row just a few paces behind the performer. The constant fidgeting, noise-making and gestures of impatience were left unchecked by the irresponsible mother. An effort to relieve the offensive duo from the ordeal of serious music-making however proved unsuccessful.

Undeterred and unruffled by the ruckus, Ng regained the composure to delicately tease out the delicious harmonies of three short pieces by John Ireland, Spring Will Not Wait, A Grecian Lad and The Cherry Tree. In many respects, these miniatures lovingly gilded prove more rewarding than impetuously banged out Chopin Ballades.

Ardent applause was rewarded with a wonderful encore, Saint-Saens’s aria Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix (My Heart Opens To Your Voice) from Samson And Delilah in a luxuriant transcription by Frederic Meinders, which for long stretches highlighted mastery for the left hand alone. That performance was alone worth the price of entry, which was generously bestowed to the Business Times Budding Artist Fund. 

Photographs by the kind permission of Natalie Ng and The Arts House.

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