George X Fu ravishing the senses as a young eagle descends on St Mary’s

Tuesday 4 January 3.00 pm

Tailleferre: Pastorale

Dutilleux: Le jeu des contraires

Rachmaninov: Prelude in G major Op 32 no 5

Ravel: Miroirs
Noctuelles (‘Moths’)
Oiseaux tristes (‘Sad birds’)
Une barque sur l’océan (‘A boat on the ocean’)
Alborada del gracioso (‘The jester’s aubade’)
La vallée des cloches (‘The valley of bells’)


Chopin: Ballade no 4 in F minor Op 52

More superb playing from Perivale.
George X Fu in a game of opposites with mirror images evoking the senses.
Kaleidoscopic sounds of subtle transcendental piano playing.
From the amazingly modern sounds of Tailleferre’s bell like Pastorale of 1919 through the Messiaenic sounds of Dutilleux to Ravel’s magical menagerie of moths birds amidst the wild swirling oceans and the desolation of the final tolling of distant bells.
It was the same luminosity of sound he brought to Rachmaninov’s beautiful G major Prelude but it was the continuous outpouring of liquid sounds in Chopin’s fourth ballade that left one breathless and uplifted.
Clad in red like a ‘young eagle who has sprung like Minerva fully armed from the head of the son of Cronus’to quote Schumann.

Bell like sounds of a delicacy and luminosity which created the atmosphere that George was seeking to evoke in his stimulating programme of the senses.It must have sounded just as audacious to her public in 1919 as it did today and Tailleferre is indeed a composer whose works demand to be heard more often.It was played with a clock work precision and a sense of shape and colour that brought it vividly to life.

Marcelle Germaine Taillefesse was born in 1892 at Saint-Maur-des-Fossés,Val-De-Marne, France, but as a young woman she changed her last name from “Taillefesse” to “Tailleferre” to spite her father, who had refused to support her musical studies.She died in Paris in 1983 at the age of 91 and was the only female member of the group of composers known as Les Six -Poulenc.Milhaud,Durey,Auric and Honegger.It was in the Montparnasse atelier of one of her painter friends where the initial idea for Les Six began. The publication of Jean Cocteaus’s manifesto Le coq et l’Arlequin resulted in Henri Collet’s media articles that led to instant fame for the group, of which Tailleferre was the only female member.The pastoral in D 1919 was dedicated to Milhaud

Dutilleux’s ‘Game of opposites’ or mirror images evoking the senses with a fascinating use of the pedals and a mixture of sounds of such resonance.There was a juxtaposition of colour with the Messiaenic explosion of dissonance contrasting with the atmosphere which led into the seemingly different world of Rachmaninov.

Henri Paul Julien Dutilleux 22 January 1916 – 22 May 2013 was a French composer active mainly in the second half of the 20th century. His small body of published work, which garnered international acclaim, followed in the tradition of Ravel,Debussy,Roussel and Messiaen.Some of his notable compositions include a piano sonata two symphonies, the cello concerto :A whole distant world,the violin concerto The tree of dreams,the string quartet Thus the night .Some of these are regarded as masterpieces of 20th-century classical music and were commissioned from him by such major artists as Charles Munch,George Szell,Mstislav Rostropovich,Isaac Stern,Simon Rattle,Renée Fleming and Seiji Ozawa

The beautifully mellifluous Prelude in G was bathed in moonlight after the tumultuous stormy Dutilleux.There was a beautiful sense of balance that allowed the melancholic melody to float on a liquid wave of gently lapping sounds.As George rightly says :Rachmaninov feels and suffers and one can feel the yearning nostalgia and innate sadness.Whereas Ravel is an observer who looks on happy to describe in minute and ravishing detail what he sees in the distance.

Around 1900, Maurice Ravel joined a group of innovative young artists, poets, critics, and musicians referred to as Les Apaches or “hooligans”, a term coined by Ricardo Vines to refer to his band of “artistic outcasts”.He gave the first performance in 1906 .Miroirs has five movements, each dedicated to a member of Les Apaches:

  1. Noctuelles” (“Moths”) is dedicated to Léon-Paul Fargue.It is a dark, nocturnal mood throughout with the moths flitting about with a lightness and improvised sense of direction.The middle section is calm with rich, chordal melodies played with sumptuous sultry sounds.
  2. Oiseaux tristes” (“Sad Birds”) is dedicated to Ricardo Vines, this movement represents a lone bird whistling a lonely tune of such desolation which others join in. The rambunctious middle section is offset by a solemn cadenza which brings back the melancholy mood of the beginning.
  3. Une barque sur l’océan” (“A Boat on the Ocean”) was written for Paul Sordes, the piece recounts a boat as it sails upon the waves of the ocean.The great sweeping melodies imitate the flow of ocean currents with streaks of lightening and turbulent waves .Played with transcendental control and sumptuous sense of colour and it led to a magical melodic line over the peaceful lapping waves with the beseeching voice from the depths .It is the longest and technically most challenging piece of the set with its constant juxtaposition of rhythm seemingly so simple in George’s magic hands.
  4. Alborada del gracioso” (“The Jester’s Aubade”)is dedicated to Michel-Dmitri Calvocoressi,It is a technically challenging piece as only Ravel could have imagined with its rapid repeated notes (like Scarbo of Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit ) but also glissandi and double glissandi the evokes the ever changing Spanish mood.From the sultry recitativi to the exuberant passion and fire.
  5. La vallée des cloches” (“The Valley of Bells”) is dedicated to Maurice Delage, Suddenly the bells are chiming peacefully in the distance with the appearance of a languid melody opening out a vision of this sultry landscape ( similar also to Le Gibet of Gaspard).This is a magic land of peace and harmony quite the opposite of the frightening landscape of Le Gibet. George gave us a magical display of transcendental playing full of intelligence and kaleidoscopic sense of colours.It evoked and enhanced our senses showing us the absolute mastery of Ravel in creating atmosphere full of insinuating sounds and atmospheres hidden in piano playing of deliberate transcendental difficulties.

One of the true pinnacles of the romantic piano repertoire is the Fourth Ballade of Chopin.George played it with a disarming simplicity in which the gentle opening gradually led to a subtle build up of mellifluous sounds that created the great wave that brought us to the inevitable passionate outpouring of exhilaration.Five gentle chords led us to the technically challenging coda played by George with the same wonderful liquid sounds with which he had shaped in an extraordinary way this masterpiece.Subtle detail were incorporated into one great architectural whole with a mastery that left us all breathless and uplifted .

Link to listen to the concert :https://youtu.be/tUoeT5PpRJE

Described by the Boston Music Intelligencer as a “heroic piano soloist” with “stunning virtuosity”, George Xiaoyuan Fu is establishing a reputation as a captivating, versatile musician 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, the Phillips Collection, 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. Highlights include important solo piano recital debuts at Kings Place in London and at the Presteigne Festival in Wales. Following a successful tour of Latin America with violist Roberto Díaz, George will also perform in two tours of Europe led by Curtis On Tour, in a trio with violinist Andrea Obiso and cellist Timotheos Petrin.Passionate about the creation of new work, George is a composer and an avid performer of contemporary music. He has collaborated with eminent composers such as Krzysztof Penderecki, Harrison Birtwistle, Tansy Davies, Philip Cashian, George Lewis, Unsuk Chin, Matthew Aucoin, and Freya Waley-Cohen. 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, and receives career support as an artist of the Kirckman Concert Society, the City Music Foundation, and the Keyboard Charitable Trust.

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2021/02/24/george-fu-in-the-great-hall-st-bartholomews-hospital-for-the-city-music-foundation/

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2021/10/06/brazil-200-celebrations-with-the-keyboard-charitable-trust-on-wings-of-song/

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