Fantastic George Fu coming to the rescue at 48 hours notice .
A lesson in beauty and seduction and a charmer on and off the stage where his love for music is irrepressible as it is irresistible. Harvard ,Curtis and Royal Academy have given him much but the spirit and joy of sharing music is his birthright.Beguiling,sensuous and intelligence added to a transcendental command of the instrument combine in an unforgettable musical experience of joy and exhilaration.
What better way to celebrate the platinum Jubilee of our much loved Queen. We send all best wishes to Thomas Kelly who had to cancel all his engagements due to what we hope is only a temporary indisposition
Co artistic director Ian Maclay introducing the concert and explaining the change of programme and artist. Thomas Kelly rapidly making a name with his success at the Leeds and Hastings competitions recently found himself ill in bed having prepared a programme that was to have included transcriptions or revisitations of Brigg Fair and Peter Grimes Having to cancel his final masters recital too at the RCM. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/04/18/thomas-kelly-takes-florence-by-storm-music-al-british/ George Fu at less that 48 hours notice was able to step in today even finding time to prepare the very interesting notes for his unexpected programme.
George Fu’s own programme notes that he wrote especially for this last minute concert
George Fu with co artistic director Jenny Robinson
St Giles Cripplegate Old and New at the Barbican Centre
George in rehearsal with his wonderfully fluid natural movements of continuous motion with the fingers making contact like floating in water.Exactly the natural position that Chopin had discovered for himself with the advent of the piano where touch and sensitivity were crucial in disguising the percussive nature of a box of hammers and strings.Chopin with the sound of bel canto in his ears could search for a way to extract the sounds from the instrument that could mirror the sounds in his ear creating compositions and technical innovations .Exactly in the same way that Casals was to do with the performance of Bach on the cello or Segovia on the guitar a century later.
The six partitas for keyboard form the last set of suites that Bach composed, and are the most technically demanding of the three. They were composed between 1725 and 1730 or 1731. As with the French and English Suites, the autograph manuscript of the Partitas is no longer extant.The first Partita is the most luminous for it’s agility,lightness and nobility. It was fascinating to watch George in rehearsal as though he were conducting the music with the continuous sense of circular movement of his arms with his hands and fingers just caressing the keys as they made contact on their natural onward journey. Experimenting too with possible ornamentation that he might use in performance on a voyage of discovery where the response of the piano and even the vibrations from the audience would lead him in an ever new direction.Even transposing one phrase up an octave as one might change manual on the harpsichord. George said that he had been listening to the monumental performances of Rosalyn Tureck and he was surprised to know that I had been not only a great friend but also one of the trustees of her Oxford Bach Research Institute.I pointed out that Rosalyn was not one to imitate the harpsichord on the piano and so would never have tried to transpose up an octave .She gave an unforgettable recital in London in 1972 when she played the Goldberg Variations twice – once on the harpsichord and once on the piano – both without the score and both completely different! I rather liked his transposition up an octave at the end of the Gavotte I – but the vibes were not right today or super intelligent George had been chewing over our discussion in the green room! It was the beauty and luminosity of sound that illuminated all that George did but nowhere more than in the Praeludium of the Partita with the crisp beauty of the trill passing from the right hand to the left without any hesitation or doubt, like the greatest of singers and all within the gentle pastoral flow of simple beauty.There was such fluidity in the Allemande played with absolute purity and clarity of sound with beguiling ornamentation in the repeat with very subtle colouring of ravishing simplicity.Gentle is the word in this Partita where any aggression or disturbances are alien to its very pastoral nature.There was the beautiful non legato of the Corrente with its gradual build up in volume leading to the whispered opening of the repeat with its simple scintillating ornamentation.The noble beauty of the Sarabande was allowed to grow out of the Corrente with magic effect and the improvised freedom of the deep bass line was of operatic weight over the subtle trill of the right hand.The Gavotte entered with grace and elegance and the Gavotte II was imbued with subtle phrasing and articulation .The gentle glissando of notes back into the Gavotte 1 was intoxicating in its subtle charm.The Giga was played with solidity but also a clear hypnotically enticing melodic line with a majestic final fearless flourish. An opening to a recital that indeed was like the vision of the fresh air and vivid greenery of an English Country Garden or Rhapsody.
Rosalyn Tureck’s own programme notes for the Goldberg Variations.
Chopin based his mazurkas on the traditional Polish folk dance also called the mazurka (or “mazur” in Polish). However, while he used the traditional mazurka as his model, he was able to transform his mazurkas into an entirely new genre. George chose four contrasting Mazukas from the published 58 that were written from the age of 15 up to his untimely death at only 39. Op 7 n.1 was played with exhilarating rhythmic energy so typical of the folk dance but with a sense of style and mystery in the ‘sotto voce’ middle episode before exploding into dance again. Op.30 n.4 showed us the intensely expressive character playing with feeling and temperament but also ravishing beauty.There was great contrast between the song and the dance with the final breathtaking beauty of the intensely felt downward scale and the final ‘blue’ note of E. Bursting into bucolic dance with op 56 n,2 played with infectious rhythmic verve and a final haze of sounds as though from afar. Op.50 n.3 where nostalgia and beauty unite to create a hypnotic effect ending in a dream world suddenly awoken with the final stamp of the feet. What a marvellous world George showed us today as he took us on the journey of Chopin’s life passed a long way from his homeland but where his heart was in the end to be forever rested. https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwj0v-ueu7T4AhVeQkEAHdEFDyMQFnoECAkQAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.thefirstnews.com%2Farticle%2Fhome-is-where-the-heart-lies-the-amazing-story-of-chopins-heart-10636&usg=AOvVaw12ievY6_oE_KLHvU2tPrK4
It was fascinating to see how this journey to the intimate world of Chopin could be created by a contemporary American composer Caroline Shaw.Creating the atmosphere of a faded vintage photograph of one of Chopin’s best loved Mazurkas,that in A minor op 17 n.4. Gentle whispered sounds reaching at some point fever pitch all based on the left hand chords of the original Mazurka.Eventually the original being exposed as if seen from afar gradually getting more and more in focus with almost unbearable intensity.It was a similar effect that Artur Rubinstein would seek in his all Chopin recitals where he would add four Mazurkas op 50 by his friend Szymanowski, dedicated to him,that would cleanse the taste buds like a sorbet during a sumptuous meal.
The fourth Ballade of Chopin is one of the pinnacles of the pianistic repertoire and it was this that George chose to finish his recital with. A true voyage of discovery played with ravishing beauty and simplicity but also passion and transcendental technical command. It was a real voyage of discovery from the mysterious opening to the seeming simplicity of the theme.It had though such intensity sown into each note lovingly caressed by George’s unrelenting and irrepressible sensitivity.The subtle counterpoints of the first variations leading to a climax of passionate intensity.Dissolving into the beauty of the second subject that was played with such complete understanding.A series of unwinding modulations led to the return of the opening whispered statement ‘avec un sentiment de regret’. Knotty twine of counterpoints appear out of a magical cascade of notes.With the theme being entwined before it’s liberation into swirls of embellishments that lead to the final passionate climax.Explosion of chords played with extraordinary technical prowess were answered by five exquisitely whispered chords before the exhilaration and explosion of the coda.A remarkable performance played with passion,sensitivity and intelligence never rhetorical or sentimental. A tour de force indeed but then as George would say ‘here we go’. The ‘Valse de l’adieu’ by Chopin was indeed George’s farewell to us today.But what fun he had with the ravishing embellishments and subtle rubatos all thrown off with the ease of the master that we only too readily realised we had before us so unexpectedly today.
We wish all best wishes to George and Leda who have announced their marriage next month …..not sure who is the luckiest.
The Keyboard Trust celebrating it’s 30 anniversary is happy to be associated with the Summer Music in City Churches with the second collaboration in the beauty of St Giles Cripplegate