January 22, 2014

Piano and Bassoon Recital – A Review


An edited version of this review was published in The Straits Times on 23 January 2014 with the title ‘Bassoon and Piano in Passion Play‘.

Aw Yong Tian, bassoon; Chenna Lu, piano
Esplanade Recital Studio
Although there have been a growing number of woodwind musicians in Singapore, solo recitals are still rare, and bassoon recitals are few and far between. Understandably so too, for it is difficult to programme an evening of bassoon works and keep the audience engaged for the entire duration.  Thus, Aw Yong Tian and Chenna Lu took the opportunity to organise a combined recital featuring both the bassoon and piano.
It seemed only fitting for two graduates from the Munich University of Performing Arts and Theatre to play music in the Germanic tradition, and repertoire for the recital consisted mostly of works from the early to mid-nineteenth century. 
The first movement of Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto, arguably the most studied piece in bassoon repertoire, proved a delightfully playful opening. Selecting a rather fast tempo, Aw Yong effortlessly handles the passagework with clarity, maintaining the light texture and crispness of rhythm and articulation.  
Aw Yong was then joined by Zhang Jinmin, principal bassoonist of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, in J. B. Wanhal’s Concerto for Two Bassoons, more than ably accompanied by Lu. It was a pity that the two bassoons only fully warmed up to each other towards the end in the cadenza. Later, however, both bassoons jested and sang, showing off the lyrical and comical characters in three arias from Rossini’s opera, the Barber of Seville.
In between the duets, Lu took the spotlight with a dramatic rendition of Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata. The outer movements were powerful, but an underlying sense of impatience and agitation pervaded her playing; this was especially evident in the middle slow movement. Fearless and formidable, Lu also thundered through Mendelssohn’s Op. 28 Phantasie and Kapustin’s jazzy First Etude from the Op. 40 set.

From the tender beginning to the fast and fiery finale of Schumann’s three Fantasy Pieces, Lu seemed to play her best when she played together with Aw Yong, the duo giving an impassioned rendition.  As the applause died down, the audience was rewarded with an arrangement of Piazzolla’s Oblivion for two bassoons and piano. Although somewhat hurried, it provided a pleasant ending to a well-thought out programme.

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