Wednesday, 1 March 2017

CD Review (The Straits Times, March 2017)

SJ50 / ****1/2

Strange as it may seem, this appears to be the first-ever CD recording of Frederic Chopin's piano music by a Singaporean pianist. Not even Melvyn Tan, Seow Yit Kin or Toh Chee Hung has ever attempted such a recital programme on disc. 

The pianist is 25-year-old Azariah Tan, alumnus of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory and University of Michigan, who was diagnosed to have progressive sensorineural deafness since the age of four.

Despite the disadvantage, he is an utterly musical and sensitive soul, which is immediately apparent in the two Nocturnes Op.62 and two shorter Preludes from Op.28. He finds a song-like tenderness and underlying disquiet to equal degree, and summons the passion needed to surmount the Second Sonata (Op.35), well-known for its Funeral March slow movement. If only there were a little more wildness alloyed to the good taste displayed, it would have been just right.

The Fourth Ballade (Op.52) unfolds ever so alluringly, with its climaxes very well judged. His view of the lyrical Berceuse is an epitome of grace, and the recital is completed by the early showpiece, Andante Spianato & Grande Polonaise Brillante (Op.22) which is sleek and majestic without being over-stated. One hopes to hear more from this genuine and exciting talent.   

News Flash: 

In a quirk of sheer serendipity, it was just announced today that Azariah Tan has been awarded the Paul Abisheganaden Grant for Artistic Excellence (2017) conferred by the National University of Singapore Centre for the Arts. Well done!

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