Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Live Review: Sonia Chan (March 2nd 2013)

Sonia Chan
Virtuosi Concerts
Eckhardt-Grammaté Hall
March 2nd 2013
Four and a half stars

Reviewed by Paul R. McCulloch

It’s always a treat to hear the pure sound of the piano unaccompanied by strings or woodwinds. On March 2nd, Canadian pianist Sonia Chan reminded an enraptured audience at the Eckhardt-Grammaté Hall of her instrument’s potent ability. With a style at once polished and genuine, Chan took emotional pieces and made them her own.

The evening began with Bach-Busoni’s Wachet auf, ruft unds die Stimme, BWV645, which began quietly and then blossomed into a more lively middle section filled with dazzling high register runs and leaps from one octave to another. Chan’s passionate interpretation and technical virtuosity were immediately apparent. After the last notes of the Bach-Busoni, Chan leapt uninterrupted into Haydn’s Sonata in E-flat major, Hob. XVI:51, which featured spellbinding passages in the Allegro before settling into a more contemplative mood with the melodic Adagio and finishing off with a nimble and delightful Finale – Presto.

Her next selections, Chopin’s first two Impromptus – No. 1 in A-flat major, Op. 29 and No. 2 in F-sharp major, Op. 36, were a joy to hear. Chan’s love for the Polish composer showed in the way she made the pieces’ dark, powerful melodies her own. Chan then treated the audience to a fiery performance of Chopin’s Ballade No. 1, a selection added to the program in place of the final two Impromptus.

Chan noted after the concert that her inclusion of the Ballade was a personal choice inspired by ‘stormy’ feelings and the piece’s defiant, courageous tone. The change made the evening feel like an intensely personal and intimate encounter, a conversation between artist, composer and audience.

This relationship was strengthened during Schubert’s Sonata in G major, Op. 78, D.894. The exquisite Molto moderate e cantabile felt like poetry in motion with its smooth, lyrical passages interspersed with delicate waltzes. Andante was heartfelt and dynamic; Chan pulled off fiery cadenzas and feather-light interludes with style, a deftness that carried over into the showstopping Menuetto – Allegro moderato, bringing joy and sorrow together in a heady combination, and the spellbinding Allegretto as finale.
The audience rewarded Chan with a sustained standing ovation and many rapturous calls for an encore. In gratitude, she offered the gorgeous Von fremden Ländern und Menschen -"Of Foreign Lands and Peoples"- from Schumann's Kinderszenen. The gentle lullaby served as both a contrast to the dramatic Schubert and a wonderful end to a spectacular concert.

Update 08/05/13: You can listen to CBC Radio 2's recording of this amazing concert here.

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