26 November, 2013

Concert Review: Fou Ts'ong Recital

November 26, 2013, CH
Fou Ts'ong
Haydn Mozart Beethoven Schubert

I came late to Fou Ts'ong, but after hearing his incomparably artless playing of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 (a beautiful recording is available on Meridian) with the Macau Orchestra in 2010 I was an instant convert.

I was not aware of this concert until I picked up a flyer in CH. The presenter,
香港上海戲曲藝術協會 Shanghai Opera Association (Hong Kong) is unrelated to western classical music and does not have a website (but it is on Facebook). Even with no promotion, the hall was packed. For a 79 year-old, Fou Ts'ong looked very well, just a little slumped in his gait. I sat third row in the balcony.

Haydn's Sonata in F Hob XVI/29 opened the concert. Fou's distinctive touch and creative phrasing resulted in a vocal performance which at times sounded more like Scarlatti than Mozart. The same spirit imbued Mozart's Sonata in B flat major K570, but here I thought a bit of traction was lost.

Then came the magnificent set of Beethoven's Bagatelles, Op 126. In these miniatures, Fou conjured up widely different vistas, the moods by turns stormy, tender or saturnine, as only a master can (lesser pianists sound boring and colorless in these pieces).

The second half was the substantial Schubert Sonata in G D894. Unlike pianists who make a big meal out of this piece, Fou's flowing and operatic performance did not seek to uncover hidden emotions or plumb great depths. I did miss the sense of mystery, the twist and turn that great Schubert players can deliver, but the performance was solid and wise nonetheless. Three perfectly crafted encores rounded out the evening.

Fou's technique is remarkably well preserved. His inimitable phrasing and touch is intact. His left hand is perfectly lucid and the Yamaha piano sounded great from my seat.

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