Beethoven Sonata in B flat op 106 ‘Hammerklavier’ Allegro ; Scherzo,Assai vivace;Adagio sostenuto;Largo-Allegro-Allegro risoluto
Rachmaninoff.Etudes-tableaux op. 33 no. 2
Moment musicaux op. 16 no. 4
Preludes op. 32 no. 10
Preludes op. 32 no. 5
Moment musicaux op. 16 no. 6
Liszt Hungarian rhapsody no. 12
Rachmaninoff preludes op 32 no. 12
Preludes op. 32 no. 13
A master at Milton Court.Ka Jeng Wong astonished this morning in London having amazed in Cremona on Saturday
A Hammerklavier at 10 am to just a handful of people but he played with total concentration as the mammoth work was etched out with masterly control and sense of balance.With all his astonishing mastery I was surprised he opened with two hands but as it was 10 am all is overlooked with an understanding that Serkin would not have shared . But that is an obvious comment when the Adagio lasting almost twenty minutes was played with a stillness and range of colours that was overwhelming.It was the same sense of wonder and discovery that illuminated the B minor Prelude by Rachmaninov that followed.Amazing technical mastery but above all a musical intelligence with his youthful passion and even showmanship.It must have been what Liszt demonstrated as sedate society ladies were reduced to wild animals after such performances as today of the 12th Hungarian Rhaosody that ended his recital.
Well almost ended because he saved the poetic G sharp minor Prelude to close together with the mighty D flat major Prelude by Rachmaninov
We were only missing the op 3 n 2 that he had played in Cremona to show the remarkable transition that Rachmaninov had made from his first to the last prelude.
Unbelievable pyrotechnics in the two moments musicaux with his youthful passion and showmanship but above all musicianship.
Thoughts from my notebook:A Hammerklavier of heroic proportions – two hands at the beginning playing safe at 10am!This is not a play safe sonata and the leap gives you the tempo of the movement despite Beethoven’s seemingly impossible metronome mark (Schnabel almost makes it and I just wonder if he risked the treacherous leap too!).There was youthful passion with extraordinary rhythmic impetus and some quite magical contrasts …….maybe forte and fortissimo contrast would give greater clarity to the musical line.Scherzo : the lighter texture created a great contrast to the monumental first movement.A trio of moving harmonic blocks creating a timelessness before the frenzied reawakening and explosion.The silences we’re projected with meaning and menace!The Adagio sostenuto had great stillness and sublime colours as it shifted continuously with passionate outbursts contrasted with wondrous introspection and moments of absolute magic whilst always moving forward carried along on a great wave.A wonderful sense of improvisation as the false start leads to an ecstatic climax and instantly sublime peace reigns with some very interesting bass counterpoints leading to an truly wondrous ending.It suddenly comes to life again with startling contrasts where Beethoven is still coming to grips with his demons before finding peace in his final great trilogy of thanksgiving.There was astonishing rhythmic energy and precision in the Allegro risoluto fugue -a full orchestra at the limit of the possibilities of a mere piano.Some much welcome moments of fleeting lightness were short lived as Beethoven turns the fugue upside down and inside out much like the mastery of Bach in the Art of fugue.It is where no conclusion is possible as it is at the limit of genius pointing to the future.A tumultuous climax before absolute peace reigns with an amazingly evocative coda on cloud of resonant bass notes.
A remarkable performance that I will long remember for its unrelenting youthful passion and energy.I well remember too Richter repeating the fugue in London as he had not been happy with his performance.Annie Fischer standing in for an indisposed Kentner played the fugue as an encore.Serkin was still kicking and spitting long after he struck the last chord.It is a monument that one tries to scale ….some get further than others and KJ is up there with them.
Rachmaninov after that reveals a completely different world with KJ’s mastery of texture and balance combined with a sense of showmanship that really was quite sensational.Astonishment,beauty and magic after the Hammerklavier at 10 am was indeed a remarkable tour de force.The few people present were treated to unforgettable performances destined to be shared in the world’s great concert halls in the future.The wizardry and volume of rich full blooded sound in the Moments musicaux n.4 and 6 could not have been bettered by the sumptuous Philadelphia as was the great final prelude op 32.There was sublime beauty and simplicity too in the ravishing op 32 n.5 and 12.But it was op 32 n.10 that will remain in my memory for a long time – The return – Rachmaninov admitted to Moiseiwitch was the inspiration.And inspired it was today with a luminosity of sound and wondrous sense of balance building up the sonorities with masterly control that evaporated in a cloud of smoke before the beseeching sounds of the final heartbreaking nostalgia of return.The Liszt 12th Hungarian Rhapsody was played with all the showmanship heart-on-sleeve ravishment and animal excitement that had us cheering Rubinstein when he was well into his 80’s.KJ has many years ahead of him but I imagine the young Rubinstein would have had much in common with this remarkable young artist.
KJ’s career has manifested beyond his training as a professional pianist. Besides performing music, he curates innovative programme at the annual Music Lab Festival as the Artistic Director, organises oversea tours, writes prolifically for publications, as well as hosting his own music programs. Largely due to his ambition to connect with others through music, he continues to surprise his audiences with ideas and projects.KJ rose to public’s attention due to an unexpected welcoming of his documentary “KJ: Music & Life” in 2009, which won Best Documentary at Golden Horse Awards. He spent four years studying under Prof. Emile Naoumoff at the Indiana University Bloomington (IUB) after trainings with Nancy Loo and Gabriel Kwok; participated in festivals such as PianoTexas and Verbier Festival Academy; received guidance from masters such as Menahem Pressler, Yoheved Kaplinsky, Claude Frank, John O’Conor; awarded twice as the concerto competition winner at IUB; proceeded to Semi-Finals at competitions such as Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition, PianoFerrol, Hong Kong International Piano Open Competition, awarded Special Prize at the Los Angeles International Piano Competition, advanced to Finals at the Young Concert Artist Audition in New York. Recently, he was voted first prize and chamber prize at the Alaska International E-Piano Competition in 2018, as well as Third Prize and Special Student Jury Prize at Maria Canals International Piano Competition 2019.At Music Lab, he built a creative hub where he can attempt for concerts of unconventional forms and ideas. Over the years, he has already presented solo programmes exploring themes such as “Seasons of Life”, “Tribute to Death”, “Fingerman – Fast & Difficult”, “Fingerman – God or No God”; chamber programmes such as “Freedom of Shadows”, “Beloved Clara”, “So French”. In 2017, he also founded the trio SMASH with saxophonist Timothy Sun and world harmonica champion, CY LEO. As a local creative force, Music Lab has grown its own festival, celebrating artists with creative thoughts and promoting cultural talents of Hong Kong. Approaching the third edition of Music Lab Festival, Music Lab and KJ continues to develop original programme as well as ambitiously touring cities in Taiwan, Macau, Malaysia and China.