Mengyang Pan at St Mary’s………and in China
It was very fitting that a favourite such as Mengyang Pan should be celebrating the 100th Tuesday afternoon concert in Hugh Mather’s prestigious series of piano recitals at St Mary’s in Perivale.
And the novelty that it should be live streamed to China too.
I understand there is a move to live stream all the recitals from Perivale in the near future.
I first met Mengyang in Monza in Italy where I had been invited to be on the jury of the Rina Sala Gallo International Competition.
I was asked by one of my dearest friends Constance Channon-Douglass who was too ill to be able to be part of the jury.
I do not normally accept these invitations as the Circus aspect of these events does not appeal to me .
I am not totally convinced that they are helpful except perhaps to the one who comes in first.
It is for the artistic damage to the other artists that I am concerned.
However I well remember two of the contestants: Julien Brocal for his performance of Schumann Carnaval and Mengyang Pan for her performance in the final of the Emperor Concerto.
I also remember the wonderful encore only of the eventual first prize winner Sangiovanni Scipione after a rather poor performance of Liszt Concerto n.2 hampered by an orchestra that had obviously not rehearsed enough a work they had not played before.
Such is the Circus aspect but it is nice to know that all three are forging ahead with notable careers .
What I did not know at the time was that Mengyang Pan was a student of two of my esteemed colleagues in London.
Tessa Nicholson at the Purcell School where Mengyang received her early training from the age of fourteen leaving the Central School of Music in Beijing where she had studied since the age of nine.
Tessa is fast building a reputation for training brilliant young musicians both at the Purcell School and the Royal Academy.
Mark Viner,Tyler Hay,Karim Said and Alim Beisembayev amongst many others have a lot to thank her for.
Mengyang Pan went on to study with another much esteemed colleague, Vanessa Latarche ,head of Keyboard Studies at the Royal College and former star pupil of the much missed Eileen Rowe in Ealing.
Mengyang’s performance of the Emperor I have long remembered and have on DVD from the competition.
I remember it for it’s clarity,precision but mainly for her complete understanding of Beethoven’s world that can go from the imperious to the most touching without any warning.
Such was Beethoven’s complex character .But always in Beethoven there is an underlying forward current that gives a terrific sense of architecture even in his simplest works.
It was just this that made her performance of what can sometimes seem much overplayed “Appassionata” Sonata op 57,so refreshing and in many ways original.
Her Grandiose approach to the opening Allegro was of great effect.That slight wait before an important bass note sometimes even adding an octave very subtly was of aristocratic nobility.
The accentution of the downward scale on the first of the groups of five was a bold decision that was totally convincing.
The playing of the great arpeggiandi with one hand towards the end of the movement would have had the approval of Arrau and all the great Beethoven interpreters.
The struggle to play such passages without splitting the hands in a more pianistic way is exactly the struggle that Beethoven infused into the very core of his music.
Anyone who had seen Serkin at work would realise just what it means to struggle and suffer as Beethoven obviously did to the bitter end.
Dramatic contrasts and taught rhythms were all here but together with a flexibility when the time came to reveal the heart and soul that was also very much part of Beethoven’s character.
The Andante con moto played with the weight of a true string quartet where every part gave such substance to this long cortege.The impetus and subtle shaping of the variations was a lesson to behold and the sudden interruption even more astonishing because of it.
The Allegro was played with great precision and energy.
I found the occasional jeux perle and clipped chord of arrival not quite in keeping with her overall majestic conception of this masterpiece.
But masterpiece it is.
Restored so brilliantly to its rightful place and sent with much love all the way to China.
The second half of the programme was dedicated to Spain.
All brilliant rays of light and heartrending nostalgia.
Mengyang loves teaching and comunicating as was shown by her delightfully informed introductions.
She does infact hold important posts at Imperial College,Blyth Centre for Music and the Visual Arts and St Paul’s School.
Lucky them is all I can say as she introduced us to a relatively unknown work by Albeniz.
His Cantos de Espana op 22.
But sugaring the pill with an old warhorse of the great virtuosi of the past :Moszkowski’s Caprice Espanol op 37.
(I had studied with Perlemuter whose first teacher was Moszkowski and I have never been able to reconcile that fact with this illustrious interpreter of Chopin and Ravel)
Many of the Cantos are well known from the guitar transcriptions.
The Prelude in particular with its repeated notes and urgent interruptions so typical of the Spanish folk idiom.
Superbly managed and contrasted with the long languid melody in the tenor register of the Orientale.Allowed to sing so touchingly and commented on by a coquettish right hand.
The Scot Joplin ease of Sous le palmier was greeted by the sombre drum roll of Cordoba where the question and answer between the hands was a pure delight.
Seguidillas was full of sun and light alternating between the subtle and delicate only to be enveloped by the infectious dance rhythms that are so much part Spain.
Caprice Espanol was given a performance in the style of the Golden age of piano playing as we have heard in recordings of Levitski,Godowsky,Rosenthal and Cherkassky.
The magic world of jeux perle and subtle hinted melodies that appear and disappear like gems in the brilliant sun.
Such sounds conjured out of her magic hands just thirty minutes on from such an exemplary Beethoven.
It took us all by surprise and her charming thank you to the audience in Perivale and China ,in which she exclaimed what fun she had had and hoped that we had too.
Her encore of Gershwin’s first prelude brought the house down and a wish to hear much more of this charming young lady with a bag so full of remarkable jewels