REVIEW: Kristian Chong – A Well Deserved Standing Ovation

A Standing Ovation

Kristian Chong is enthusiastically applauded

There was a well deserved standing ovation for Kristian Chong at Sunday’s South Coast Music Society concert at St Bernard’s Church Batehaven. It was such a thrill to be able to hear this internationally renowned Melbourne pianist. We are blessed to have an artist and teacher of this calibre come here to play for us.

On the program were works by J S Bach and extremely demanding arrangements of Bach’s organ and violin music overwritten onto Bach’s scores by romantic composer/pianists Liszt, Busoni and Rachmaninoff.( Liszt prided himself on writing music which was too difficult for other pianists to play.)

Beginning with Bach’s most popular work for harpsichord, Chromatic Fantasie and Fugue BWV903, Mr Chong gave us a lush romantic interpretation of Bach in contrast to the drier historically accurate sound that is sometimes advocated. He made full use of the range of dynamics and sustain on the modern piano unlike that of Bach’s harpsichord. The church organ, however, did have deep pipes that produce a sensation of great space and depth and higher registers that seem to cascade and float. This effect was breathtakingly emulated on the piano in the second item, Liszt’s arrangement of Bach’s Organ Prelude and Fugue in A Minor. Next came a reworking by Busoni of Bach’s Chaconne for violin, full of mood changes and sublime feelings.

Kristian Plays

Kristian Chong at St Bernard’s

The second half began with Preludes Opus 32 numbers 10, 5 and 12 by Rachmaninoff. Mr Chong introduced the works and spoke about the influence of the dissonant intervals in jazz harmonies on Romantic composers. This was Rachmaninoff’s personal favourite and we heard the more complex harmonies that give Romantic music its mystery, subtle shades and power to evoke imagination and strong emotion.

Next came Rachmaninoff’s overwritten arrangement of Bach’s Violin Partita No 3, Prelude, Gavotta and Gigue and Busoni’s piano arrangement of Bach’s Toccata, Adagio and Fugue for Organ. In this heightened emotional interpretation of Bach we are given a sense of steadfast spiritual joy; a precious quantity not usually found in our dysfunctional contemporary world but still accessible to us in this music.

Piano student, Molly Burrows, with Kristian

Piano student, Molly Burrows, with Kristian

As an encore Mr Chong played a mellow piece composed for him by Miriam Hyde when he broke his right arm in 1983.

 Sue Wray
23 June 2014