Raymond Yong (piano)
reviewed by Neville Cohn
Few composers are as demanding on musicians as Mozart. The tiniest misjudgement in passagework, the smallest lapse in clarity can prove disastrous. Happily, Raymond Yong succeeded in steering the clearest and most musicianly way through the solo part of Mozart’s Concerto in A, K414 ensuring, seemingly effortlessly, that the peak of the afternoon lay securely in the keeping of the Salzburg master.
It was a rarely encountered version of the work, with the orchestra here replaced by a string quartet, an alternative mooted by Mozart himself. Here, with his customary distinction, Paul Wright led a quartet made up of Isabel Hede (violin), Jared Yap (viola) and Sophie Parkinson-Stewart (cello).
If this had been Yong’s only contribution to the afternoon, it would have been an altogether fulfilling experience, such were the precision, fluency and expressive insights brought to bear on the score.
Later, we heard Liszt’s massive Sonata in B minor, a work which is
no-man’s-land to all but the very few pianists able to meet its formidable challenges, not least of which is substantial staying power to maintain momentum through its frequently gruelling episodes. In its half-hour course, Liszt’s work poses immense physical and stylistic challenges that can test the mettle of the most experienced of pianists. From every standpoint, however, Yong was clearly in control. It was an heroic effort, crowned with success in a way that augurs well for a solo career of distinction. There was no hint of strain at all, despite the massive demands the sonata makes on the performer.
A bracket of the first eight of Chopin’s 24 Preludes opus 28 was less uniformly persuasive. The first, in C, barely hinted at the composer’s requirement that it be played agitato. No 5 in D sounded rather bland. But the famous Prelude in E minor was a beautifully considered offering, an essay in melancholy. The Prelude in F sharp minor, too, could hardly have been bettered, its fiercely demanding, very rapid figurations in the right hand despatched with utmost agility and accuracy.
As encore, Yong played Schubert’s Impromptu in G flat, its serenity a perfect foil to the passionate grandeur of the Liszt Sonata.