Tuesday, 7 January 2014

GIOVANI 3 PIANO RECITAL / Alyssa Kok, Alexander Ronoyudo & Jonathan Chua / Review

Alyssa Kok, 
Alexander Ronoyudo 
& Jonathan Chua, Piano
Esplanade Recital Studio
Sunday (5 Jan 2014)

This review was published by The Straits Times on 7 January 2014 with the title "Prize-winning prodigies show finesse".

The title of the recital was somewhat confusing. It was not a concert for 3 pianos, but one featuring three young pianists in solos, with none named Giovani. Getting that out of the way, the event was a two-hour-long show of how three prize-winning prodigies from Singapore and Indonesia have progressed.

The first half featured short recitals by the threesome. 11-year-old Singaporean Alyssa Kok was the 1st prize winner in her age-group at the Ars Nova Piano Competition last year. The level of maturity she displayed was astounding, possessing natural poise and a crystal clear understanding of the contrapuntal complexities in Bach’s Toccata in E minor. Her view of Mozart’s Sonata in B flat major (K.333) was fluent and limpid, with none of the self-indulgent idiosyncrasies that blighted Lang Lang’s recent recital.

14-year-old Indonesian Alexander Ronoyudo, another victor of the Ars Nova, produced a big sound in Bach’s short Fantasia in C minor, one wholly suited for a grand piano rather than the original harpsichord. In Haydn’s two-movement Sonata No.18, his crispness of articulation brought out the music’s inherent humour and guilelessness.

Singaporean Jonathan Chua at 15 already appears to have his own ideas on how the music should go, which gave an added dimension to his playing. While the movement from Mozart’s “Hunt” Sonata in D major (K.576) was disciplined and chaste, there was a hot-blooded passionate response to Granados’s Requiebros (Flatteries) from Goyescas, and many thrilling moments in Liszt’s Tarantella.

In the second half, the three pianists took turns to play shorter encore-like pieces. Kok did a Margaret Leng Tan by playing the insides of the piano in Turkish pianist-composer Fazil Say’s Black Earth, producing an otherworldly sonority in this smoky jazz-like number. She brought colour and imagination to a Debussy prelude and was a model of finesse in Glinka’s Nightingale Variations.

Ronoyudo weathered an error-strewn Liszt Gnomenreigen (Dance of the Gnomes) to score in Chopin’s popular Étude in E major (Op.10 No.3), with cantabile sitting comfortably alongside virtuosity. A barnstorming account of Khachaturian’s coruscating Toccata, which sounds more difficult than it actually is, closed the recital on a high.

If there was a single performance that showed both superior technical instruction and the individuality of self-expression, that would have been Chua’s no holds barred performance of Chopin’s First Scherzo. Juxtaposing barely concealed violence with the comforts of a Polish lullaby, Chua took on its challenges in a single gulp, and this reviewer is happy to report that it generated a spontaneous Horowitzian buzz that would be hard to replicate. That is the essence of live performance for you.

Alyssa Kok, Jonathan Chua and Alexander Ronoyudo
with their teachers So Kim Wie (Indonesia)
and Benjamin Loh (Singapore).

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