George Fu in The Great Hall St Bartholomew’s Hospital for the City Music Foundation

Debussy – Selections from Études, L. 136, nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12

Rachmaninov -Gavotte from Violin Partita No. 3 by J. S. Bach

FU – Transformation on Gigue from Violin Partita No. 2 by J. S. Bach

Rachmaninov – Études-Tableaux, Op. 39 nos. 5, 8, 9

What is a piano study? It can be the mastery of an action through repetition; it can be a thorough investigation of a musical object; it can be a musical sketch centered around one central idea. Études are an endless source of fascination, inviting composers and pianists alike to push both physical and musical possibilities, while offering a listening experience that ranges from the ethereal to the virtuosic. Debussy’s and Rachmaninoff’s Études explore the vast range of color and expression a piano has to offer, while two pianist-composers (Rachmaninoff and myself) discover new possibilities through piano transcriptions on solo violin works by J. S. Bach.’

In the beauty of the historic great hall of St Bart’s a young Harvard economics graduate appeared from a small door dressed in a multi coloured shirt and sat at the Bechstein grand where from the very first notes he showed us just what it means to have been chosen to be promoted by the City Music Foundation.A five finger exercise that we have all had to suffer in our early piano lessons from the endless books of Czerny studies.But then the music seemed to break up and was not familiar at all.Notes flying by with busy but fascinating shapes that somehow the rather stale boring studies of Czerny were given a new life.A fantasy of sounds and colours building to a great climax and the final scales over the whole span of the keyboard brought to a conclusion with three final chords.

In a charmingly relaxed way this Chinese American pianist a graduate also of Curtis in Philadelphia and the RAM in London explained that this had been the first of Debussy’s studies and that he was going to play another six dedicated to thirds,sixths,octaves ,arpeggios,chords and differing harmonies.The 12 Etudes by Debussy were written just three years before his death and Debussy described them as “a warning to pianists not to take up the musical profession unless they have remarkable hands”.They are considered his late masterpieces and are in many ways more obscure than his earlier more mellifluous works because they look always to the future.

They may be studies in thirds,fourths,sixths octaves etc but they also explore the sounds and colours of the piano too.Debussy was at the time editing the works of Chopin for Durand as the German editions were no longer available in France and he was evidently inspired by the studies that Chopin had written almost a century earlier.The studies are dedicated to the memory of Chopin.In the preface Debussy states that he has purposefully not added any fingerings :’It an an excellent exercise and there will be no disagreement as one can never be better served than by oneself.’Find your own fingering are his final words.

We need not have worried with George Fu who showed a total mastery not only of the extraordinary technical challenges but also the intellectual one’s of joining all the pieces of this great jigsaw together into a coherent whole .The hidden difficulties of ‘Pour Les tierces’ were beautifully disguised and led to the simplicity of the opening of the sixths with its subtle modulations before dissolving to the final almost inaudible bass note.’Pour Les octaves’was played with astonishing bravura with the robust opening giving way to insistent murmurings before the Lisztian explosion of virtuosity with which it triumphs.’Pour Les sonorities opposées’was hauntingly beautiful as George delved into this magic world with the final whispered notes allowed to reverberate in this beautifully resonant Great Hall.’Pour Les arpèges composés’had a beautiful fluidity to it contrasting with the dry almost tongue in cheek central section and leading to the absolute calm sonorities of the ending.’Pour Les accords’ was played with remarkable brilliance which melted into the deeply atmospheric central section before taking up arms again and bringing this first part of his recital to a tumultuous end.

Explaining how greedy pianist were ,wanting to loot pieces from other instrumental repertoire and adding to an original work creating a new work for their own instrument.To demonstrate this he played Rachmaninoff’s own transcription of the Gavotte from the violin partita in E.Playing it with great charm and clarity and with a glint in his eye as he revelled in the pure Rachmaninoff harmonies that accompany Bach’s original melody.It was the same fun that he had with his own ‘transformation’ of the Gigue from the 2nd Violin Partita.It revealed a completely different sound world with its opening left hand octaves and some startling virtuosity every so often allowing Bach a peek into the fun that he was having throwing the end off with the ease of the great pianists of a past era.

Three Etudes Tableaux by Rachmaninoff were played with sumptuous sounds with the passionate outpourings of the fifth and the haunting beauty of the eighth before the grandiose driving rhythms of the ninth.Played with astonishing virtuosity and total command it brought this short streamed recital to a trumphant conclusion.

Passionate about the creation of new work, George is an active composer and performer of both traditional and contemporary music, having collaborated with eminent composers such as Krzysztof Penderecki, Harrison Birtwistle, Tansy Davies, Philip Cashian, George Lewis, Unsuk Chin, Matthew Aucoin, and Freya Waley-Cohen.

Described by the Boston Music Intelligencer as a “heroic piano soloist” with “stunning virtuosity”, Chinese-American pianist George Xiaoyuan Fu is establishing a reputation as a captivating, versatile performer with distinctive intelligence and sensitivity.  George has performed as a piano soloist with orchestras such as the National Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, North Carolina Symphony, Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, and the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, and collaborated with conductors such as Michael Tilson Thomas, Stefan Asbury, Kensho Watanabe, Vinay Parameswaran, and Jonathan Berman. He has appeared at international venues such as the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, and Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, while his live performances and interviews have been featured on several public television and radio broadcasts around the world, such as In Tune on BBC Radio 3, Performance Today on National Public Radio, and On Stage At Curtis in Philadelphia. George continues a busy performance schedule in 2021. After being selected as a Kirckman Music Society Artist, George makes an important solo recital appearance at Kings Place in London and a debut at the Presteigne Festival in Wales. After a successful tour of Latin America with violist Roberto Díaz, George will perform in two tours of Europe led by Curtis On Tour in a trio with violinist Andrea Obiso and cellist Timotheos Petrin. Interested in collaborative work, George is a conductor, an active chamber musician with duo partners and ensembles around the world, and collaborator with artists of many disciplines. After receiving a bachelors in economics from Harvard University, George studied at the Curtis Institute of Music under Jonathan Biss and Meng-Chieh Liu, and then at the Royal Academy of Music under Christopher Elton and Joanna MacGregor. He has also worked intensively with Pierre-Laurent Aimard, specifically on the music of Messiaen and Debussy. George is currently the Hodgson Piano Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music.

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