Mengyang Pan at St Mary’s Beauty and control – passionate intensity and intelligence

Thursday 15 September 3.00 pm

Playing of beauty and intelligence but also passionate intensity and delicacy.A continual outpouring of contrasts of crystalline playing of great clarity and precision.I had first heard Menyang in the Rina Sala Gallo competition in Monza in 2012 and it was her top prize winning performance of the Emperor Concerto that I remember so well.It was Beethoven that opened her programme today – the first of the final trilogy that Beethoven wrote towards the end of his life .Here was the same crystalline purity of her playing .Notable was her scrupulous attention to the composers markings and the intensity that lies behind the notes at the moment of creation.This sense of improvisation or discovery gave a freshness to all that she did.From the mellifluous opening of op 109 where even the moments of grandiloquence were merely momentary interruptions of a continuous flow of golden sounds.There was great contrast with the rhythmic energy of the Prestissimo but there was also a clarity that allowed the music to continually evolve as it moved relentlessly to the final chords.There was rich beauty and depth of sound to the theme on which Beethoven’s variations develope.The simplicity and beauty of the first variation and the subtle lightness of the second was contrasted by the rhythmic precision and dexterity of the third and the gradual languid unwinding of the theme in the fourth.The call to arms of the fifth was played with precision and energy before its total disintegration as the theme points ever more on high.Passionate outbursts reveal a celestial serenity where the theme emerges chiselled with bell like clarity over a rumbling bass.Some superb playing of control and technical assurance that allowed the genial vision of Beethoven’s last thoughts to shine through with disarming simplicity and beauty.The final reappearance of the theme was played with the same intensity as his last great quartets.

There were enormous sonorities at the opening of Liszt’s Funerailles .It is the 7th of Liszt’s Harmonies poétiques et Religieuses (Poetic and Religious Harmonies).It was an elegy written in October 1849 in response to the crushing of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 by the Habsburgs.It is subtitled “October 1849” and has often been interpreted as a sort of funeral speech for Liszt’s friend Chopin,who died on 17 October 1849, and also due to the fact that the piece’s left-hand octaves are closely related to the central section of Chopin’s “Heroic” Polonaise op 53 written seven years earlier.However, Liszt said that it was not written with Chopin in mind, but was instead meant as a tribute to three of his friends who suffered in the failed Hungarian uprising against Habsburg rule in 1848.The sonorities that Mengyang found were in startling contrast to the late Beethoven that had preceded it.The deep resonance of the bass funeral March contrasted with the beauty and delicacy of the melodic line as it moved into the treble leading to a passionate climax of sumptuous sounds.There was quite astonishing power and virtuosity as the cavalry moved in and Mengyang brought the work to a truly tumultuous climax before allowing it to dissolve to a mere whisper.An extraordinary performance of power and beauty,delicacy and control but above all a poetic vision of remarkable communication.

The Fantasies, Op. 116 for solo piano were composed by Johannes Brahms in the Austrian town of Bad Ischl during the summer of 1892 and consists of seven pieces entitled Capriccio or Intermezzo, though Brahms originally considered using “Notturno” for No. 4 and “Intermezzo” for No. 7. The last number, like the first, is a stormy D minor capriccio; while at the centre of the collection stand three intermezzos in E major and minor which together may be construed as a form of slow movement.There was grandeur and sumptuous full sounds that contrasted with the contemplative and luminous sounds of a deeply heartfelt lament.A passionate outpouring of notes in the Capriccio in G minor with a sumptuous middle section of almost orchestral proportions.The few poignant notes of the Intermezzo in E were of searing beauty and introspection until a sudden ray of sunlight unexpectedly shines through.There was the questioning of the intermezzo in E minor and the languid chorale of the Intermezzo in E with the ravishing beauty of the melodic middle section .Finishing with the passion and explosive emotions of the Capriccio in D minor.

Mengyang Pan was born in China and has been living in the UK since 2000. She began her piano study at the age of three before becoming a junior student at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. At the age of 14, she left China to study at the Purcell School in the UK with professor Tessa Nicholson. Upon graduating with high honours, she went on to complete her musical education at the Royal College of Music training under professor Gordon Fergus-Thompson and Professor Vanessa Latarche.The prize winner of many competitions including Rina Sala Gallo International Piano competition, Bromsgrove International Young Musician’s Platform, Dudley International Piano Competition, Norah Sands Award, MBF Educational Award, Mengyang has performed in many prestigious venues such as the Royal Festival Hall, Wigmore Hall, Cadogan Hall, Bridgewater Hall and Birmingham Symphony Hall amongst many others. As soloist, Mengyang has appeared with many orchestras and her collaboration with conductors such as Maestro Vladimir Ashkenazy, John Wilson and Mikk Murdvee has gained the highest acclaim. Mengyang also finds much joy in teaching. In 2019, Mengyang was appointed piano professor at the Royal College of Music in London, she also teaches at Imperial College.

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