Piano Grande!

Government House Ballroom

reviewed by Neville Cohn

If you have not previously heard of Bo An Lu, make a note of the name. If his account of the first movement of Tchaikowsky’s Piano Concerto in B flat minor is anything to go by, this sixteen-year-old is on a fast track to the stars.

Seemingly unruffled by one of music’s greatest challenges – and a TEE exam the following day – Bo An employed fearless fingers to hurl massive blocks of sound, Zeus-like, into the auditorium. By any standards, this was a remarkable achievement not least for expounding Tchaikowsky’s musical argument in so lucid, mature and heroic a way. Mark Coughlan provided excellent backing on a second piano.

Fazioli  pianos are few and far between in Perth – and to have two of these magnificent and very costly concert grands temporarily under a single roof would have been a first for the city. And nine fine musicians fronted up to put these instruments to the test with both players and pianos emerging with honour enhanced. This was a piano extravaganza to cherish.

A gem of the afternoon was Romance by Rachmaninov. A particularly tricky logistic challenge for three musicians and six hands at a single keyboard, it was an admirably expressive offering by Graeme Gilling, Emily Green-Armytage and Lyn Garland.

Very much noisier Rachmaninov – his Suite No 2 for two pianos – was essayed by Green-Armytage and Adam Pinto who generated very high decibel levels for which the Ballroom was really too small a venue. The Concert Hall would have been preferable for this.

There was also some delightful insouciance in the form of  Poulenc’s L’embarquement pour Cythere which came across courtesy of Garland and Coughlan.

Also at this concert marking Zenith Music’s 40th anniversary, was the quite remarkably poised seven-year old Shuan Lee who, with his father Yoon Sen Lee, gave us an arrangement for two pianos of themes from Yellow River Concerto and Homeland.

Gilling and Coughlan also played, most sensitively, Percy Grainger’s Blithe Bells – a re-working of Bach’s serene Sheep May Safely Graze – and were joined by Garland and Pinto in Smetana’s Rondo in C, frankly charmless music that sounded a simulation of peasants engaged in a heavy-footed, bucolic dance. There was also music by Mozart in the form of a movement from a sonata for two pianos played by Kathy Chow, another gifted 16-year-old, and Yoon Sen Lee.

At this memorable offering by of some the city’s most accomplished pianists, the crowded audience included many of Perth’s leading piano teachers.

Barry Palmer, whose speech had the inestimable advantage of brevity, paid tribute to the Cranfield family who have made so singular a contribution to the music life of the city.

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