Wai Yuen Wong soaring high at St Mary’s

Thursday 16 June 3.00 pm


Some beautiful musicianly playing of great intelligence with a near scrupulous attention to the composers intentions.A programme of two master works from the Romantic piano repertoire.It was though in the Scriabin Waltz op 38 played as an encore that she suddenly found the improvised freedom that had been lacking in her exemplary but over respectful performances.In her beautiful playing of Schumann and Chopin she had been searching for a deeper meaning and expression but sometimes loosing sight of the overall architectural shape.Trees of ravishing beauty where the confines were not clearly enough defined.

Eleonor Wong and Norma Fisher are two teachers of enormous musical stature.Eleonor was a highly respected student in her final year at the Royal Academy under Frederick (Freddie) Jackson,a much respected musician who died conducting the Verdi Requiem in the RAM Dukes Hall.I was in my first year and was very much in awe of her and her sister Linda.Eleonor would often ask me if she could play through her programmes that she was preparing for competitions.I was always so overcome by her musical and pianistic perfection in performances of Schumann Kinderscenen,Mozart C minor Sonata or Beethoven op 110 that I like to think that my unbounded enthusiasm evidently gave her the courage to go on and win many important International competitions .Her teacher had recently awarded me the Liszt Scholarship and it was my teacher Sidney Harrison who took me to the Wigmore Hall to hear his star student Norma Fisher giving a recital in the prestigious London Piano Series.I felt almost as proud as he did as he presented me to her as the new Liszt Scholar after a wonderful recital.I still remember to this day her performances of Brahms Handel Variations ,Chopin Berceuse and Debussy studies. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/05/12/norma-fisher-at-steinway-hall-the-bbc-recordings-on-wings-of-song-the-story-continues/

So it is a small world where now half a century later I listen to a pupil of both Eleonor and Norma.Gordon Green,my second teacher at the RAM would cheekily say two Wongs do not necessarily make a right!An innocent remark from one of the most loved and respected teachers of his day.In this case dear Gordon they do!There was great beauty in Wae Yuen’s playing with never an ugly or ungrateful sound.If she loved the music too much is that really a bad thing?Scriabin liberated her of all her inhibitions and left her free as a bird to soar to the heights where her superb technique and musicianship can really take her.

Davidsbündlertänze (Dances of the League of David),op.6 is a group of eighteen pieces composed in 1837 by Schumann who named them after his music society Davidsbundler.The low opus number is misleading: as it was written after Carnaval op.9 and the Symphonic Studies op 13 .His early piano works were influenced by his relationship with Clara Wieck as he wrote to his former professor: “She was practically my sole motivation for writing the Davidsbündlertänze, the Concerto, the Sonata and the Novellettes.” They are an expression of his passionate love, anxieties, longings, visions, dreams and fantasies.The theme of the Davidsbündlertänze is based on a mazurka by Clara Wieck and these intimate character pieces are his most personal work. In 1838, Schumann told Clara that the Dances contained “many wedding thoughts” and that “the story is an entire Polterabend – a German wedding eve party, during which old crockery is smashed to bring good luck”.18 characteristic pieces or musical discussions about contemporary music between Schumann’s characters Florestan and Eusebius. These represent the impetuous and the lyrical, poetic sides of Schumann’s nature. Each piece is ascribed to one or both of them. Their names follow the first piece and the appropriate initial or initials follow each of the others except the sixteenth (which leads directly into the seventeenth) and the ninth and eighteenth, which are respectively preceded by the following remarks: “Here Florestan made an end, and his lips quivered painfully”, and “Quite superfluously Eusebius remarked as follows: but all the time great bliss spoke from his eyes.”The suite ends with the striking of twelve low C’s to signify the coming of midnight.The first edition is preceded by the following epigraph: In each and every age
joy and sorrow are mingled:
Remain pious in joy,
and be ready for sorrow with courage.

A beautifully shaped capricious opening with such subtle colours but sometimes slowing down too much and loosing the essential impish impetus of this first piece that is ascribed to both Florestan and Eusebius.A beautiful sense of balance and sensitivity -inning- in the second piece but slowing down a little too much at the end.She brought lightness and wit to the third with a beautiful sweeping coda of fleeting colours and great passion to the fourth.The fifth ascribed to Eusebius with delicate phrasing that she played with loving care!There was great agility and sense of forward propulsion in the sixth contrasting with the beauty of the seventh where the middle section was allowed to flow so naturally.Florestan was now in charge with the scintillating ‘Frisch’ of the eighth or the passionate duet of the ninth and the almost Brahmsian fullness of the tenth.The ‘wild und lustig’ of the thirteenth was lacking in pedal and although a good contrast with the beautiful mellifluous central episode it somehow did not seem to link up as a whole.The coda was played with fleeting sounds disappearing to a whisper of jeux perlé swirls of notes.The fourteenth is the very heart of Schumann -zart und singend – and was played with ravishing tone even if the accompaniment and melody seemed to be heading for a collision at one point.The ‘Frisch’ of the fifteenth I found a bit too heavy at the opening but then she allowed herself such freedom that the middle section soared into the heights of sublime romantic sounds.The sixteenth is a preparation for the sumptuous beauty of the seventeenth and could have had a little more forward movement as it leads to the magical F sharp which opens up Schumann’s dream world of fantasy where Florestan and Eusebius are at last united.The final nostalgic waltz was played with a wonderful sense of phrasing that just added such poignancy to the twelve remarkable chimes of C and the gradual disappearance into the distance of one of Schumann’s most miraculous creations.

Chopin Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor,op .58, is the last of his piano sonatas and was completed in 1844, only five years before his death,and is the only one to finish in a major key.

The opening of the B minor Sonata
Chopin’s very precise indications in the autograph manuscript
The first movement of the B minor Sonata was played with great forward movement that gave such nobility and strength with a sense of architectural sweep where her occasional caressing of beautiful corners was even the more poignant and ravishing.There could have been a little more care of Chopin’s own pedal markings in the ‘leggiero’ passage that would have sounded more melodic and less quixotic and of the final chords three are marked forte and the final two fortissimo.But it was a remarkably fine performance where the second subject was allowed to soar on high with such freedom and emotional strength .The scherzo was played with admirable clarity and agility but given such shape too.If she tended to dwell too much in the long central section the gentle return of the scherzo was masterly.Like the very fine musician she is understanding instinctively that the final fortissimo of the scherzo leads immediately into the opening aristocratic fanfare of the Largo.Beautifully played and managing to keep the tempo moving it might be useful now to look at Chopin’s own pedal indications that could inspire her to even greater flights of fantasy.The Finale was played with exemplary precision and control not allowing the opening agitato indication to lead her astray too soon.Great excitement,passion and technical prowess were the extraordinary ingredients that brought this very fine performance to a remarkable end .
The autograph showing Chopin’s very precise pedal indications

Born in Hong Kong, Wai Yuen Wong graduated from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Music department under Professor Eleanor Wong, Artist-in- residence. While followed Miss Juile Kuok at younger age. She is now studying the Master Degree of the Royal College of Music, under Professor Norma Fisher.She has won many overseas and local music competition prizes: Concerto trial prize with the the HKAPA orchestra, the 2nd prize at the International Piano Competition for Young Musicians, Enschede of the Netherlands. The 3rd Prize in the 1st Korea International Competition for Young Pianists, the First Prize and Professional Grand Prize at the 75th Steinway & Sons International Youth Piano Competition and was invited to perform at “The International Steinway Art Festival ” held in Hamburg, Germany. She was also awarded the First Prize at the 65th Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in Wales, UK. In addition to holding recitals in Hamburg, Beijing and Xiamen, she also performed the “Magic Piano & The Chopin Shorts” and “Beyond Impressionism” at the 42nd and 46th Hong Kong Arts Festival respectively.She was awarded a Certificate of Commendation by the Hong Kong Government in recognition of her outstanding achievements in the promotion of international arts and culture activities.


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