My friend Phil, who attended Holy Word Church while he studied piano at the Royal Conservatory just had his first published review! And it was extremely postive!! And well it should be, Phil is the most brilliant pianist I have ever seen/heard. It was amazing to have him play for Sabbath worship.
Anyways, I’m so happy for Phil that I thought I would post the whole review. He posted it on his blog for the world to see, and I thought I would perpetuate it. What is particularly cool about Phil is that he came to HWC as an unbeliever, was converted, baptised and is now quite a mature Christian.
Young Pianist Chiu gives brilliant performance
By Alison Dale
For the Beacon Herald (Stratford)
Pianist Philip Chiu’s brilliant performance at City Hall yesterday morning blasted away the wilting effect of humidity, putting temporary discomfort into perspective with his powerful sensitivity. The concert was the first in Stratford Summer Music’s Maureen Forrester Young Canadian Artists Recital Series, which honour Canada’s remarkable contralto, Maureen Forrester, now suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s disease.
“One can only hope that in her mind there is great music,” said John Miller, the festival’s artistic director, in his opening remarks. He said that this part of the festival is always a tough sell, since the artists are not well known. However, many who have appeared in this series have since become well-established in the international music scene, and Philip Chiu will likely be no exception.
The recital began with Mozart’s fast-paced, familiar and joyous Overture to the Marriage of Figaro. The rapid passages were a fine introduction to the pianist’s fluid and gentle precision, and exquisite control of dynamics. Mr. Chiu followed with Mozart’s Adagio in B minor, creating a spacious, unhurried contrast to the opening piece. Clear, uncluttered melodies floated in thoughtful suspension, punctuated with periodic bursts of explosive decisiveness.
Moving on to one of Mozart’s contemporaries, Mr. Chiu played Sonata in F-sharp minor, by the Italian composer Muzio Clementi. The first movement was positive and energetic, with lots of dramatic, engaging syncopation and triplet motion. The second movement was dark and moody, growing progressively lighter and then suddenly intense before returning to the movement’s original mood. The sparkling power and energy of the third movement created a jubilant finish, and portrayed Mr. Chiu’s fine range of emotional expression and technical prowess.
Though Clementi’s sonatas are not played often in concerts, they can be more difficult to play than Mozart’s, due to jumping runs, wide finger spacing and complex chord structures. Many of his pieces are used in educational settings, and he is considered by scholars to be the creator of both the modern piano as an instrument (he devoted part of his life to building pianos) and the father of modern piano playing.
The recital program continued with three of Rachmaninoff’s preludes. Mr. Chiu chose them for the way they fit together and balance each other’s emotional content. The Prelude in B minor was full of dark, boording chords that asserted themselves repeatedly, and graceful, high passages that created a delicately swirling wind around them. The music shifted briefly from minor to major before falling once more into the darkness.
Prelude in G major, in contrast, was full of kindness and optimism and hope. Its poise and lightness suggested spring, and new beginnings, and Mr. Chiu kept the piece buoyant and uplifting throughout. There was nothing delicate about the swirling storm of Prelude in C minor. It was a frantic weave of complex thoughts and emotions that managed to resolve its own intense dilemma in the end, shifting out of the murky minor tonality for good this time.
To close the program, Mr. Chiu played the thrilling Sonata No. 1, by Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983), who is considered to be one of Latin America’s most important composers. The sonata belongs to Ginastera’s middle period, described as “subjective nationalism,” in which he flavours his work with Argentinian elements but makes no direct quotations from the folk music of his country. Instead, his references are more abstract and personalized.
The sonata’s opening Allegro movement was pulsing and angular, with stabs and bursts of rhythm and lots of double-ended drama between bass and treble sections of the piano. The precision required such moves would challenge any pianist, but Mr. Chiu maintained virtually flawless control of the ceaseless roller-coaster. The Presto misterioso movement was even more furious, and yet brilliantly subdued, incorporating the extreme dynamic shading of high-pitched pianissimo passages over dark and mysterious undercurrents.
Breaking the forward motion, the Adagio gave listeners a chance to catch their breath. It offered continuous melodically and harmonic surprises, and room for reflection between the passionate frenzies of the other movements.
Composer and performer really met their match in the invigorating, exhilarating final Ruvido ed ostinato movement. Mr. Chiu’s fingers were literally a blur as he flew through the passages, while keeping the magnetic ostinato steadily pulsing, sometimes with one hand on top of the other.
Ginastera, according to his daughter, used to say, “Every work of art must be in the first place trascending.” The young pianist’s passionate performance of this last movement would have no doubt made the composer proud. The joyful transmission of sheer rhythmic power and intensity left this listener smiling, grateful and marvelously rejuvenated for long time after the final notes were struck.