Bobby Chen in Paradise Andata e Ritorno

Bobby Chen in Paradise Andata e ritorno
Two recitals by Bobby Chen on the 9th and 23rd March in Farm Street Church Mayfair.
It was great news to see that the superb recital by Bobby Chen of the 9th March was repeated on the 23rd with yet another programme .With short Lenten Reflections in both that just added to the beauty of what we were about to hear.
I have never seen a church so well kept and it is an absolute oasis of peace especially on Saturday the 23rd that was dedicated to the big BrExit !
A programme that included a Bach- Busoni transcription but also the famous transcription of Myra Hess “ Jesu Joy of man’s desiring.”
Liszt of course was present again with the great B minor Ballade.
But it was the opening work that took us by surprise with such a fresh and intelligently simple vision of the Beethoven Pathetique Sonata.
Simplicity is the hardest state to reach in Art especially in an area where all too many people have “trampled” before.
From the arresting opening where the rests play such an important part there was the freedom with which he descended to a completely new orchestral colour ,so rudely interrupted by Beethoven only to continue unperturbed on it’s journey.
There was all this and it was only the beginning of the moving story that Bobby was to recount.
A crystal clear Allegro molto in which the ornaments were so crisply played in answer to the questioning bass.In a true musicians hands even the most well known of pieces can be brought to life and made to speak anew.
The slow movement was allowed to sing thanks to his great sense of balance and the fact that it flowed in two even though Adagio.
The clarity and differentiation between the voices was remarkable and there was just enough give and take to make us feel that he was accompanying a singer and not just playing rather lazily a piano sonata.The Rondo showed off all his great attention to detail without loosing sight of the rhythmic energy that fills Beethoven’s early works.
A beautiful liquid sound was the hallmark of Myra Hess’s famous Bach transcription.Never forcing the tone but allowing this sublime melody to emerge so naturally.
Busoni’s sombre transcription of Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland BWV 659 was played with the true devotion of a believer.
In fact this is Bobby Chen’s church where he comes to worship every week.He is in good company as the founders of the Keyboard Charitable Trust have chosen this oasis too as their weekly shrine.
The Ballade in B minor by Liszt closed this short teatime concert and brought some sumptuous sounds from the piano with great feats of virtuosity.But always that of a musician totally in control as he recounted the great story of Hero and Leander that Liszt penned so magnificently in this miniature tone poem.
From the almost La Valse like rumble of the beginning with the beautiful liquidity of the alternating quiet episodes.The sublime melody in the middle register of the piano and the rumbustuous scales and chordal declamations were all perfectly judged and only made one wonder why this work is not more frequently heard in the concert hall.
Some superb playing on the 9th March from Bobby Chen in this wonderful church in the heart of Mayfair.Church of the Immaculate Conception known simply as Farm Street Church.
Surrounded by beautiful gardens, with the Connaught Hotel on its doorstep.And today a Maclaren casually parked outside
Inside a sumptuous feast of music for tea.
The two legends by Liszt so clearly played with a real sense of line and total commitment.You could almost see the birds of St Francis of Assisi and the total belief of St Francis of Paola traversing the waves.
It reminded me of Robert Levin in his residency at the Guildhall this week explaining that to play what the composer actually wrote really is the best option!
I have rarely heard these very beautiful pieces in the concert hall but a magical recording of Wilhelm Kempff has always remained in my heart.
A very fine new Yamaha allowed him to play the Petrarca sonnet 104 with such clarity and little pedal that allowed this most beautiful of sonnets to resound so impressively in this sumptuous haven that is Farm Street Church.
Busoni’s transcription of the organ prelude “Ich ruf’ zu dir,Herr Jesu Christ” was a wonderfully moving transition into the more bombastic world of the Bach Chaconne.
I have heard Bobby play this before in Perivale and it is a very musicianly reading.
Starting piano and finishing fortissimo but with the great organ bass notes that Agosti,a disciple of Busoni,was aghast at the bomb like treatment they are usually treated to by great “virtuosi”.
Here Agosti would have cheered the superb musicianship of Bobby.
He might not have been persuaded though by his romantic fluctuations in tempo as this was for him a true rock on which all music was constructed.
Infact he likened the penultimate of Schumann’s Etudes Symphoniques to a Gothic Cathedral.
But Agosti was not a true believer as Bobby obviously is.
For Agosti music was his God.
For Bobby music and God go together as they were today. Prefaced with short Lenten reflections that only added to the music that could continue where words are just not enough. The next tea-time concert is on Saturday 23rd March at 4.40.I for one will not miss it.

The Maclaren casually parked outside the Connaught


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