Hao Zi Yoh at St Mary’s -The simplicity and ravishing beauty of a great artist

Tuesday 25 October 3.00 pm


Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 15 in F major K. 533/494 (finished 3 January 1788)is in three movements :Allegro – Andante – Rondo: Allegretto.The Rondo was originally a stand-alone piece composed by Mozart in 1786 (Rondo No. 2, K. 494 ).In 1788, Mozart wrote the first two movements of K. 533 and incorporated a revised version of K. 494 as the finale, having lengthened it in order to provide a more substantial counterpart to the other two movements.There was clarity and a disarming simplicity to Hao Zi’s playing with crystal clear articulation and a rhythmic drive that was spellbinding from the first notes.Great elegance in the beautifully shaped Andante was played with an aristocratic sense of style.There was drama too but always within the confines of the overall shape of the movement that unlike Beethoven was just a passing cloud until returning to the serenity of the opening melodic line.The cascading arpeggios replying one to the other at the end were played with a refined delicacy that was absolutely ravishing.The purity of sound and child like simplicity gave such charm to her playing of the rondo.The ever more vivacious ornamentation just added to the rhythmic impetus with her sparkling jewel box full of kaleidoscopic colours.A coda deep in the bass in such reflective mood as the rondo theme just dissolved before our eyes with the magic that Hao Zi had recreated.

The Novelletten, op 21, is a set of eight pieces written by Schumann in 1838 and is dedicated to Adolf von Henselt.February 1838 was a period of great struggle for Schumann who originally intended the eight pieces to be performed together as a group, though they are often performed separately.The concluding piece of the set that Hao Zi played is actually two pieces in one. The first part is a passionate etude in 2/4, the second has the nature of a march ending in D major, the principal key of the cycle.There was a romantic outpouring of sumptuous beauty with some pungent harmonies within the alternating legato and staccato.She brought such clarity as she pin pointed the melodic line in the first episode made up of the dotted rhythms that Schumann was so fond of.She brought an equally infectious rhythmic drive to the second where the gradual diminuendo created a magical base on which floated one of Schumann’s most heavenly melodies.Nobility and passion marked the final episode of the best known of these eight novelettes.It was the one together with the fourth that I have never forgotten from the hands of Sviatoslav Richter on one of his first visits to London in the 70’s.If Hao Zi did not quite have the animal like rampage of Richter she made up for it with her sumptuous sounds and an architectural shape that makes one wonder why it is not more often played these days.

Miroirs has five movements, each dedicated to a member of Les Apaches.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”.To pay tribute to his fellow artists, Ravel began composing Miroirs in 1904 and finished it the following year

“Noctuelles” (“Night Moths”). D♭ major. Dedicated to Léon-Paul Fargue and is a highly chromatic work, maintaining a dark, nocturnal mood throughout. The middle section is calm with rich, chordal melodies, and the recapitulation takes place a fifth below the first entry.”Une barque sur l’océan” (in English “A Boat on the Ocean”). F♯minor. Written for Paul Sordes , the piece recounts a boat as it sails upon the waves of the ocean. Arpeggiated sections and sweeping melodies imitate the flow of ocean currents. It is the longest piece of the set.There was a fluidity of sound together with the fleeting lightness of Noctuelles.A deeply brooding atmospheric middle section with a completely different sound colour from the Schumann that one could only describe as unmistakably French.These moths flittered around the keyboard with kaleidoscopic colours that just seemed to flow so naturally from Hao Zi’s hands.The final flourish as they disappeared into the night air was of quite ravishing beauty.One could almost see the waves splashing about in ‘Une barque’with an astonishing fluidity out of which emerged a gentle melody that gradually became ever more turbulent.Storm clouds of mysterious sounds were played with astonishing technical prowess with streams of wonderful sounds just cascading from her fingers with such ease.What beauty she brought to the left hand melodic line as the waves weaved their delicate way in the right and calm was restored as rays of sunlight seemed to appear between the clouds with such subtle radiance.

The Masques op. 34 by Szymanowski was written from 1915 to 1916.In 1914, the composer took refuge in his home village in Ukraine and remained there until the Russian Revolution. He had returned from a long stay in Europe, Sicily and North Africa, where he drew his inspiration for these years’ works. Here his style approached the Impressionism of Debussy.The Masques were written in a different chronological order than that of their publication, with Scheherazade initially completing the cycle. Tantris is a corruption of Tristan, taken from the myth of Tristan and Iseult and retold in a piece by Ernst Hardt where Tristan masquerades as a jester to meet his sweetheart.A fascinating glimpse of this still elusive composer.There were the capricious sounds of the jester alternating with passionate outpourings and a spectacular final flourish.of transcendental difficulty.Hao Zi seemed to delight in bringing such character to this very evocative piece.

Scriabin’s Piano Sonata No. 2 in G-sharp minor op.19, also titled Sonata-Fantasy) took five years for him to write. “The first section represents the quiet of a southern night on the seashore; the development is the dark agitation of the deep, deep sea. The E major middle section shows caressing moonlight coming up after the first darkness of night. The second movement represents the vast expanse of ocean in stormy agitation.”There was sumptuous beauty of the opening statement with gentle meanderings of ravishing sounds and delicacy.A melodic line embroidered in Hao Zi’s hands with streams of gold and silver.The second movement with its cascades of notes was played with such ease as they slowly shape themselves into a sumptuous melody of romantic sweep.A tumultuous climax was allowed to die away to a mere whisper before the final triumphant chord.Bringing this extraordinary recital to an exciting conclusion.

Malaysian pianist Hao Zi Yoh was born in 1995 and began her music studies at the age of 3. By the age of 12, she already performed at Carnegie Hall as a gold medallist of the Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition. Most recently, Hao Zi is selected as participant in the Preliminary Round of Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw 2021. In Malaysia, Hao Zi studied under Chong Lim Ng, who showed her the path into the classical music world. She explored composing and her composition “Bustling City and Peaceful Suburb” was selected to represent Malaysia at the Yamaha APJOC concert 2007. At the age of 14, she moved to Germany to study with Prof. Elza Kolodin at the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg. It was then she won top prizes in many international competitions including EPTA Belgium, Enschede, RNCM James Mottram (Manchester, 2012) and Concurso internacional de piano Rotary Club Palma Ramon LLull, Mallorca (Spain 2013). This led her to performing as soloist in festivals around Europe, USA, China, Japan and Malaysia. Besides, she also performed with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Nova Amadeus and Baleares Symphony Orchestra. In 2014, she came under the tutelage of Prof. Christopher Elton at the Royal Academy of Music, London, generously supported by Lynn Foundation, Leverhulme Trust, Countess of Munster and Craxton Memorial Trust. She received 3rdPrize at Roma International Piano Competition, the Phillip Crawshaw Memorial Prize for an Outstanding Musician from Overseas at the Royal Overseas League Competition. She was also recipient of prestigious Martin Musical Scholarship Trust Philharmonia Piano Fellowships on the Emerging Artists Programme 2017/18. During her studies, she explored her relationship with music and her interest in creating sound colours: her MMus Project 2016 involved collaborating with percussionist Daniel Gonzalez to create a version of Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit for Piano and Percussion. In her interpretation of “A Distant Voice of the Rainforest” by Chong Lim Ng, she included improvised extended piano techniques as well as improvised singing to draw the audience into the soundworld of a rainforest. Apart from this, Hao Zi also participated in creative outreach projects led by the Open Academy for children and elderly with Dementia, where she performed in Music for Moment Concerts at the Wigmore Hall. She collaborated with author-illustrator David Litchfield and improvised to his storytelling of award-winning book “The Bear and the Piano”. Hao Zi remains in close contact with the music scene in Malaysia. She has given talks, performances and masterclasses to the students of University of Malaya, Bentley Music and Persatuan Chopin in hope to share her experiences and help the younger generation. During the Covid-19 lockdown, Hao Zi held online livestream and fundraiser for St. Nicholas’ Home for the Blind, Penang, Malaysia. A Young Steinway Artist, Hao Zi is currently based in London and has performed in venues such as Wigmore Hall, Southbank Royal Festival Hall, Salle Cortot, Steinway Hall London, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (Malaysia) and Teatro Quirino (Italy). She is further developing her performing career being part of the Keyboard Trust London, Talent Unlimited. Hao Zi is also a piano tutor at King’s College London and gives masterclasses at Imperial College London. Currently she is studying with Martino Tirimo, after being awarded full scholarship to pursue an Artist Diploma at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, generously supported by the Bagri Foundation and Gladys Bratton Scholarship .


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