Hao Zi Yoh for Cranleigh Arts Online

Hao Zi Yoh at Cranleigh Arts Centre in collaboration with the Keyboard Charitable Trust

I have heard Hao Zi on many occasions as you can see below.Her playing of the Chopin Preludes at Regent Hall a few years ago left Bryce Morrison speechless with admiration.Now in that transitional period between finishing her studies and embarking on a professional career she has come under the wing of the Keyboard Charitable Trust.We are very happy to be able to share in the honours of their very first online concert.The second concert too next week will be Sasha Grynyuk who was selected a few years ago to give the KCT Prizewinners concert at the Wigmore Hall.https://www.facebook.com/notes/christopher-axworthy/sasha-grynyuk-an-unexpected-visit-from-a-master-pianist/10156957474887309/

Two quite remarkable artists both earning a special place in the music profession.

https://www.facebook.com/notes/christopher-axworthy/hao-zi-yoh-at-st-martin-in-the-fields/10156215461122309/

https://www.facebook.com/notes/christopher-axworthy/hao-zi-yoh-at-regent-hall/10155929756752309/

https://www.facebook.com/notes/christopher-axworthy/hao-zi-yoh-at-st-jamess/10153454898747309/

Malaysian pianist Hao Zi Yoh was born in 1995 and began her music studies at the age of 3. By the age of 12, she already performed at Carnegie Hall as a gold medallist of the Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition. Most recently, Hao Zi is selected as participant in the Preliminary Round of Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw 2021.In Malaysia, Hao Zi studied under Chong Lim Ng, who showed her the path into the classical music world. She explored composing and her composition “Bustling City and Peaceful Suburb” was selected to represent Malaysia at the Yamaha APJOC concert 2007. At the age of 14, she moved to Germany to study with Prof. Elza Kolodin at the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg. It was then she won top prizes in many international competitions including EPTA Belgium, Enschede, RNCM James Mottram (Manchester, 2012) and Concurso internacional de piano Rotary Club Palma Ramon LLull, Mallorca (Spain 2013). This led her to performing as soloist in festivals around Europe, USA, China, Japan and Malaysia. Besides, she also performed with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Nova Amadeus and Baleares Symphony Orchestra.In 2014, she came under the tutelage of Prof. Christopher Elton at the Royal Academy of Music, London, generously supported by Lynn Foundation, Leverhulme Trust, Countess of Munster and Craxton Memorial Trust. She received 3rdPrize at Roma International Piano Competition, the Phillip Crawshaw Memorial Prize for an Outstanding Musician from Overseas at the Royal Overseas League Competition. She was also recipient of prestigious Martin Musical Scholarship Trust Philharmonia Piano Fellowships on the Emerging Artists Programme 2017/18. During her studies, she explored her relationship with music and her interest in creating sound colours: her MMus Project 2016 involved collaborating with percussionist Daniel Gonzalez to create a version of Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit for Piano and Percussion. In her interpretation of “A Distant Voice of the Rainforest” by Chong Lim Ng, she included improvised extended piano techniques as well as improvised singing to draw the audience into the soundworld of a rainforest.Apart from this, Hao Zi also participated in creative outreach projects led by the Open Academy for children and elderly with Dementia, where she performed in Music for Moment Concerts at the Wigmore Hall. She collaborated with author-illustrator David Litchfield and improvised to his storytelling of award-winning book “The Bear and the Piano”. Hao Zi remains in close contact with the music scene in Malaysia. She has given talks, performances and masterclasses to the students of University of Malaya, Bentley Music and Persatuan Chopin in hope to share her experiences and help the younger generation. During the Covid-19 lockdown, Hao Zi held online livestream and fundraiser for St. Nicholas’ Home for the Blind, Penang, Malaysia. A Young Steinway Artist, Hao Zi is currently based in London and has performed in venues such as Wigmore Hall, Southbank Royal Festival Hall, Salle Cortot, Steinway Hall London, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (Malaysia) and Teatro Quirino (Italy). She is further developing her performing career being part of the Keyboard Trust London, Talent Unlimited. Hao Zi is also a piano tutor at King’s College London and gives masterclasses at Imperial College London.

The Mozart Sonata was played with a delicate precision almost without pedal that gave a clarity and simplicity that is rare indeed.Artur Schnabel said, ”Mozart piano sonatas are too easy for children and too difficult for adults. … ” ”No one ever said so much with so little as Mozart did in his keyboard works. ”And it was this purity that Hao Zi was able to show us with her scrupulous attention to detail of phrasing and touch.It was quite exemplary playing but I just wondered if she knew the operas of Mozart and the different characters that appear.Whilst admiring enormously her playing I just felt that she was a little afraid of stepping out of style and bringing the notes of Mozart more vividly to life.It was the same with the Allegretto last movement one just longed for a more luminous sound with more colour and character. The Andante Cantabile on the other hand showed some beautiful playing and her sense of colour and delicate phrasing here was memorable.

Her playing of Schumann as with Chopin later in the programme revealed an artist with a quite remarkable sensitivity to sound and a real natural feeling of flexible phrasing – rubato- that allowed the music to speak in a very simple and direct way.She was convinced and convincing where in Mozart she obviously felt constrained.

Schumann wrote 30 movements for Kinderszenen- Scenes from childhood but chose 13 for the final version. The unused movements were later published in Bunte Blatter- coloured leaves op 99, and Albumblatter Op. 124.  Schumann told his wife  Clara that the “thirty small, droll things”, most of them less than a page in length, were inspired by her comment that he sometimes seemed “like a child”. He described them in 1840 as “more cheerful, gentler, more melodic” than his earlier works.

It was just this sense of character that came across so vividly with the same inflections and slight pauses that Curzon and Cortot brought to these seemingly simple pieces.The beautiful fluid sounds ‘Of foreign lands and people’with the melodic line shaped so eloquently with a magical sense of balance.The playful rhythmic lilt she gave ‘A curious story’ led so well to the hell for leather fun of ‘Blind man’s bluff’ .Could one ever resist such a ‘Pleading child ‘that made him ‘Happy enough’to sing such a joyous song on his way to a truly ‘Important event’.Played with such grandeur and precision never allowing the tone of this beautiful new Shegaru Kwai to harden.’Dreaming’ with such magical sounds and subtle phrasing shaped with infinite love and care.Ready for the duet between the voices ‘At the fireside’ before jumping onto a ‘Hobby horse’ of such rhythmic energy.It was ‘Almost too serious’ for her delicate projection of the melodic line helped by the rich bass notes of this magnificent piano.Shegaru Kwai was infact the preferred piano of many pianists who were given a vast choice of instruments at the last Warsaw Chopin Competition. Hao Zi would have found out as she had been selected for this year’s competition had it not been postponed.Her delicacy and precision was beautiful as it was ‘Frightening’ and the ‘Child falling asleep’ must have been an angel indeed as it shone out like a diamond amongst these jewels.The final chords of ‘A poet speaks’ was a lesson in how to persuade us that the piano was not a percussive instrument.

The Prokofiev one movement 3rd Sonata was played with pungent rhythmic energy and with a clarity and precision of great technical prowess.There were also some beautiful moments of peace shielded by clouds of pedal in the central section moderato before the reawakening of Allegro tempestoso con elevazione.Poco più mosso was an exhilarating race to the final tumultuous chords.

Hao Zi in conversation with Clive Wouters

One of the benefits of on line concertising ,like the relays from the Met, is the interesting and informative intervals.Gone is the bun fight for a glass of sherry or queue for the bathroom and instead, like today, an interesting voyage of discovery into the world of the concert artist who is sharing her music making with us.

It was Bryce Morrison,one of the world’s most renowned pianofiles,who admired Hao Zi’s Chopin Preludes a few years ago and listening again today to her Chopin one could immediately see why.

From the very first notes of the three Mazukas op 59 there was a feeling that she had arrived home.This was a world of fantasy,ravishing sounds and a flexibility of rhythm that is instinctive and can never just be taught. Chopin likened it to a tree with the roots in the ground but the branches free to sway in the wind.

Such melancholy in the opening bare notes of the first mazurka were followed by notes weaving their magic spell with such freshness and spontaneity.The second slightly more serious mazuka with a haunting central left hand melody and that dissolved so magically into the stratosphere with just a very gentle full stop on the final pair of barely whispered chords.I remember so well Smeterlin playing this in the Festival Hall years ago and it has haunted me ever since, as Hao Zi’s performance will today.A real sense of dance in the final Mazurka that was so natural for her and seemingly inborn.

It was Fou Ts’ong who much to everyone’s surprise won the prize for the Mazukas in one of the very first Chopin Competitions in Warsaw.He gave many masterclasses in my theatre in Rome and I was always intrigued and inspired by how he would relate the feeling in Chinese poetry to the same feeling in the music of Chopin.Small world- music is a universal language and the heart beats the same in China as it does in Poland ! Ca va sans dire!

The Sonata in B minor op 58 was given a memorable performance as were her Preludes op 28 a few years ago.A great sense of architecture that did not preclude a complete poetic freedom.Bold contours mixed with ravishingly beautiful detail .The gentle voicing at the beginning of the development was so clearly played and the gradual build up to the recapitulation was played with fiery passion.The return of the second subject was played with such masculine authority and simple heartfelt sense of line that owed more to the school of Rubinstein than Paderewski.The Scherzo was played with a scintillating jeux perlé that seemed to move like a living thing feeling its way.Full of shape and ravishing colour.The Trio too was played with great feeling and sense of direction .The Largo showed her supreme sense of balance where there was such a glow to the long cantabile melodic line.The sostenuto middle section barely murmured as the melodic line was gently hinted at.The coda was pure magic.We were awakened by the Presto non tanto chords that gradually took us to the relentless agitato.Her sense of control and changes of colour were quite mesmerising as the agitato built up relentlessly to the final triumphant explosion.The fanfare at the end rang out as never before but always with a beauty of sound that in all the animal excitement was never allowed to become harsh.

The simplicity and purity of Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie n-1 The work’s unusual title comes from the French form of  gimnopaedia, the ancient Greek word for an annual festival where young men danced naked! It was offered as a thank you to Cranleigh Arts Centre and just summed up in a few simple bars the complete artistry of this brilliant young pianist.

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