Wednesday 22 June 2022

FANTASIES & ETUDES / TURKISH DELIGHTS & SIMPLE GIFTS / Anton Gerzenberg, Piano; Keila Wakao, Violin with re:Sound / Review


Anton Gerzenberg Recital

presented by Altenburg Arts

Victoria Concert Hall

Wednesday (15 June 2022)



Keila Wakao & re:Sound

Victoria Concert Hall

Sunday (19 June 2022)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 22 June 2022 with the title "Young musicians steal the limelight".


It is no exaggeration to say that young people now command the concert stage like never before. Just last week, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra named 15-year-old violinist Chloe Chua as its artist-in-residence for the 2022-23 season. This pair of concerts is further proof that youth is no impediment to the pursuit of artistry.

Photo: Ung Ruey Loon


German pianist Anton Gerzenberg, now in his mid-20s, was the 2021 winner of the Geza Anda International Piano Competition in Zurich. As a teenager, he was already performing chamber music with the great Argentine pianist Martha Argerich. His Singapore debut was a showcase of multi-faceted artistry.


Photo: Ung Ruey Loon

The programme was palindromic, opening and closing with cycles of etudes (keyboard studies), with two fantasies sandwiched in between. Contemporary Korean composer Unsuk Chin’s Six Etudes showcased an outlandish display of digital effects, from rhythmic machinations to absolute scintillation. Atonality was never an issue, instead Gerzernberg’s intelligent and engaging approach brought out the music’s vital essences – pulse, texture and a kaleidoscopic array of colours.

Photo: Ung Ruey Loon


In Schubert’s ferocious Wanderer Fantasy, barnstorming was replaced by thoughtfulness, eschewing showy technique for its own sake. One was instead reminded of the composer’s love for lieder (artsong). Similarly, a radiant voice emerged from the subterranean rumblings of Scriabin’s Fantasy in B minor (Op.28), like a sun’s rays piercing through dark clouds. The heavy lifting called for in Chopin’s 12 Etudes (Op.25) seemed like child’s play for Gerzenberg. All through its thorny thickets, only music was heard, not just mere notes. His generous encores of Schumann (Arabeske Op.18), Kreisler-Rachmaninov (Liebesleid) and Debussy (L’isle Joyeuse) also confirmed that notion.


Sixteen-year-old Japanese-American violinist Keila Wakao was the latest winner of the Yehudi Menuhin Violin Competition (Junior Division), the same platform that launched Singapore’s Chloe Chua into prominence. Her Singapore debut with chamber group re:Sound, performing Mozart’s Violin Concerto No.5 in A major, was no less impressive.


Blessed with a gorgeous full-voiced tone and spotless intonation, her solo entry was breathtaking. As with most conductor-less performances, she joined in the general ensemble playing in tutti passages. Leading from centrestage, her solos were also in perfect synchrony with concertmaster Yang Shuxiang and his charges, displaying all the best qualities of chamber music-making.


Her cadenzas eschewed outright virtuosity, tasteful and in keeping with the spirit of the music. The famous Turkish-styled minor key episode of the finale, brought out some drama but this was never vulgar or self-indulgent. Like her encore of Gabriel Faure’s Apres un reve (After A Dream), accompanied by just orchestral strings, every moment was well-judged and beautifully crafted.


True to the concert’s folksy theme, the evening opened with Mozart’s comic Overture to Abduction From The Seraglio, rocking with raucous percussive effects from triangle, cymbals, timpani and bass drum. It closed with the chamber version of Aaron Copland’s ballet Appalachian Spring for 13 players, revelling in jaunty dance moves before gloriously closing with variations of the well-known Shaker hymn Simple Gifts. Simply delightful.     

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