Chiyan Wong at St Jude’s

Chiyan Wong at St Jude’s Proms
The genial Chiyan Wong in contemplative mood for St Jude`s Proms.
Mystery with mastery that is only for those unique few with a God given total dedication to their art.
A programme designed as a whole.
From the mystery of Bach to the submission of Liszt “Benediction de Dieu ” indeed.
A remarkable feat of concentration and absolute mastery of his instrument
I have heard Chiyan many times.
From that first time at the house of his mentor Norma Fisher where he gave a private play through of Busoni and Liszt.
It was here in his explanations as well as his extraordinary playing that I realised that we were in the presence of something quite unique.
I then heard a monumental performance of the Goldberg Variations in the Busoni edition.
Chiyan not completely convinced of Busoni’s final solution rewrote his own!
He then went on to play in Villa Wolkonsky-The British Ambassador’s Residence in Rome explaining so lucidly his programme to a High Society audience who were also charmed and entertained by this passionate young man.
I had written a piece about Trifonov a few weeks ago to try to understand exactly what I had heard and to put my thoughts and values into perspective for my own satisfaction.
I soon realised that in trying to clarify my thoughts there are some genial talents that do not fit into any convenient category.
A searching, restless mind is not always easy for the listener or the performer.
It can lead to torment,suffering and miscomprehension.

The  video projected onto giant screens in this extraordinary venue maintained and run by passionate volunteers
The recital that we heard today was a case in point.
It is a collaboration,now in it’s second year,between the Keyboard Charitable Trust and St Jude’s Proms in Hampstead Garden Suburb.
A programme that was in continual evolution right until the moment this lithe young man sat himself infront of the beautiful Steinway Concert Grand that was to be the medium via which he would express himself.
Not just a programme of well balanced works but a vision from the first note to the last in a voyage of discovery that he was sharing spontaneously with us.
“Contemplation” immediately came to mind .But words have no meaning here .Music takes over where words are just not enough.
When I told Chiyan after the concert that like all great artists he is destined to suffer for his art.
He quoted his favourite poet Thomas Merton “To lose one life is to save it”………………….. adding music is the way!
And so it was with his concert a true “Benediction “ which of course was the central work of this concert.
Preceded by six of the Goldberg Variations almost as Bach had written them with just tiny variants from Busoni in the ornamentation and very subtle doubling (very different from the final variations that sound like Liszt Paganini!).
Announced the Aria and variations 1,2,4,5,7,13 but infact he played n.6 in place of n. 7 because it was this that created the mood of extreme serenity within a sound world of extraordinary beauty.

Presented with a red rose at the end of his journey
A sound world that was not interrupted for the “Benediction de Dieu dans la Solitude” which entered like “St Paolo walking on the waves.”
We were hardly aware that one idea had been linked to another in this continual evolution of sumptuous sounds.
Infact the Liszt was quite extraordinary playing and although there were moments where he broke out of his protective shell I did feel occasionally that it lacked an edge or some more definite sounds that could have contrasted more fully with this atmosphere that was being created .
There was though a definite glow around the piano of meditative sounds as though we were in the presence of something really special.
The transcendental piano playing was never in question or even underlined as so often can happen with empty virtuoso performances.
Here was a quite extraordinary technical prowess but like Trifonov the other night it was totally at the service of a personal vision of the music.

Elena Vorotko, co-artistic director of the Keyboard Trust and Sarah Biggs, managing director
This was followed by six preludes op 28 by Chopin to reflect with the six variations of Bach.
Again missing the 17th Prelude announced as he started with the 18th which is a much more fluid prelude that suited his vision in this moment.
But before this we had heard miraculous sounds and silences from “Flowers we are……..”Virag az ember” 1a,3, 4b by Kurtag.
Almost like a “sorbet” in a vast meal that cleanses the palette before starting all over again.
Rubinstein used to play the four Mazurkas by Szmanowski in the middle of an all Chopin recital for the same reason.

The tormented soul greeting his astounded public after his long journey
The final work was and still is in evolution!
The Don Juan Reminiscences by Liszt S 418.
A work that Chiyan has been playing since he was 15 .A fantasy on works by Mozart that Liszt elaborated in his own unique way.But then it was reworked by his pupil Busoni and now has been reworked again by Chiyan Wong.
A great showpiece for virtuosi which usually receives a barnstorming performance seducing the public that used to treat Liszt much like the pop idols of today.
This for the mood that Chiyan had wanted to create was much more subdued.
Some extraordinary virtuosity that almost passed unnoticed because of the beauty of the sound and the complete lack of demonstrative showmanship which is usually the norm.
It quite rightly received a standing ovation from this very discerning public that had listened totally mesmerised by this remarkable display of self denial.
Chiyan putting himself totally at the service of his vision of the music he was transmitting.
As I said of Trifonov;”Je joue,J’ecoute,Je trasmets.” the motto of only a chosen few.

St Jude’s Hampstead Garden Suburb

CD signing after the concert

Beautiful imposing St Jude’s

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