Hearing-impaired young pianist dazzles

Review: Classical


Singapore Conference Hall/ Last Sunday

The Young Virtuoso Recital, formerly part of the Singapore International Piano Festival, offers a professional platform for the best of young pianists to showcase their abilities.

Hearing impaired Azariah Tan, having won several international competitions at the age of 22, was the latest to be featured in the series. Despite his tender years, he offered a refined performance.

His astute comprehension of musical structure in his reading of J.S. Bach's Partita No.5 In G major BWV 829 revealed from the start that this was no ordinary musician, but a bona-fide artist with a keen mind.

The sparkling clarity of the opening Prelude and fleet-footed Corrente were delivered with a spirited elegance that never indulged in the unnecessary, and the artfully phrased Sarabande carolled with grace.

Mozart's Piano Sonata in B-flat major, K. 333, offered Tan the opportunity to bask in its youthful innocence. While there were moments of inclination to surge ahead, he nevertheless infused an air of humility and nobility into his playing and resisted all temptation to pedal over delicate runs and leaps.

The second movement would have been better served with a touch more cantabile. It was in the concerto-like final movement, complete with a cadenza section, that the work sprang to life.

Zraz Za by Kawai Shiu, dedicated to the performer, is a reflective and meditative commentary on Chopin's A-minor Prelude.

The chromatic figurations of the Dies Irae chant were scattered throughout the work, and the tolling of notes in the extreme registers of the piano saw Tan produce a startling range of sound from the Steinway.

Despite the conjectural nature of its harmonies, he seemed to have an innate sense of their function. His pairing of the Berceuse and Ballade No. 4 by Chopin was convincing.

The repeated four-bar theme of the Berceuse effervesced in its metamorphosis, reflecting Chopin's mastery of transfiguration. The Ballade No. 4 is a complex narrative of emotions and musical ideas. It was here that Tan's relative youth was most apparent. Instead of dwelling on the heightened state of drama, he opted for a more penetrating and projected execution.

The music of Franz Liszt is always crowdpleasing and Tan did not disappoint in the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12. His carefree approach was contrasted impeccably by the astounding accuracy of the left-hand octaves. The lightness of his running notes was breathtaking.

His offering of two encores, Etude Op. 10 No. 3, and Op. 25 No. 9 by Chopin, hinted at his favoured composer. Tan has proven with his musical intellect and supreme control of the instrument that the sky is the limit for this young pianist.

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