Sunday 16 October 2011

NAFA Mentorship Piano Recital @ Steinway Gallery Singapore

Steinway Gallery Singapore at Palais Renaissance has truly become a hive of piano activity, with recitals taking place ever so often that it is sometimes difficult to keep track of. The latest was a Mentorship Piano Recital on Sunday 16 October, featuring two eminent teachers of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and a trio of their best students.

The teachers, Rena Phua-Cheung and Boris Kraljevic opened the proceedings with a performance of Mozart's Sonata in D major for 4 hands, K.381. The faster outer movements buzzed with rhythmic exactitude and exuberance, with the slow movement being an oasis of lyrical charm and beauty. The legato they achieved was simply delicious.

Thanks to Boris, the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts has been attracting some fine musical talents from the former (and present) Communist bloc nations. Three such students featured in the recital, beginning with Ana Jovanovic (Serbia) who performed two contrasting movements from Prokofiev's Second Sonata. The slow movement saw her build a fine arch of brooding crescendo, building upwards to a cathartic climax of sorts, before unleashing a rush of adrenaline for the breathless finale. She hasn't got all the notes yet, but this is a good start.

Everyone knows the love affair between Kseniia Vokhmyanina (Ukraine) and Chopin's Fantasy in F minor. She has lived with this work for almost two years, and her every performance of this demanding masterpiece gets more and more convincing. She has begun to take ownership of this piece; her every note and phrase and gesture means something important, and there is nothing that is superfluous. Simply, she has unearthed the genius and passion of Chopin, and that is cause for celebration.

Similarly, Nguyen Tien Khai (Vietnam) has grown in confidence with her interpretation of Prokofiev's Eighth Sonata. The first movement is a blockbuster of bittersweet lyricism coloured with a violent streak. Both these contrasting elements were well brought out. The languorous melodic line of the opening soon morphing into something far more sinister and malevolent. The rumbling unheavals of the central episode were a tour de force of expressing a painful and agonising disquiet.

Mentors and students come together for a final bow.

Three virtuosas in the making.

A proud teacher Boris Kraljevic and his charges.

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