Chiyan Wong Plays Prokofiev - Cambridge News (Live Review)

The City of Cambridge Symphony Orchestra's presentation of two iconic works by composers of the Soviet era had a packed audience enthralled at West Road Concert Hall on Saturday night.

A programme more demanding on its musicians could hardly be imagined, with Prokofiev's notoriously difficult 2nd piano concerto followed after the interval by the lengthy 10th symphony of Shostakovich.

The Prokofiev work has an unusual history in having been written ‘twice.' The original score was apparently destroyed by fire during the Bolshevik revolution when, Prokofiev being absent in the USA, the occupants of his apartment during a time of great deprivation - or so the story goes -used it as fuel to cook an omelette!

Mercifully, both artists were able to re-write their creations, and in the case of his piano concerto Prokofiev made substantial revisions. The work as it now stands has intimidated the world's greatest pianists and as a consequence is infrequently performed.

From its haunting and ethereal beginning to its very ‘Russian', symphonic, at times almost Tchaikovsky-like conclusion, the concerto foregrounds the piano to the point where the orchestra's contribution, nonetheless powerful and compelling in the execution, is reduced to that of intervention rather than accompaniment.

Standing in for the indisposed Andrew Zolinsky was the young UK based pianist Chiyan Wong whose utterly breathtaking performance was a revelation.

He took in his stride the appallingly difficult 2nd movement which goes pell-mell from first note to last without a break for the soloist, while in a particular sequence in the 3rd he displayed finger work and glissandi with the sort of prestidigitation that conjured magical effects on the piano this reviewer had never heard produced before.

It isn't surprising that among Chiyan Wong's many prizes is one for the International Piano Competition in Memory of Vladimir Horowitz in the Ukraine. Ravishing delicacy of touch and tone in the lyrical passages and tremendous percussive forces in the cadenzas that made the piano at times a frightening instrument, inevitably brought this legendary pianist to mind.

Chiyan Wong was clearly absorbed by and in love with this work, from which he emerged, as though from a wonderful dream, to quietly accept the uproarious ovation so deservedly his. Those present at this performance will run, I imagine, not walk to secure their tickets for his future recitals.


03 April 2017