Concert review

Lauren Zhang (piano)

17th March 2022

BRILLIANT YOUNG PIANIST

 

In its 78 year history many fine pianists have appeared in Penrith Music Club concerts. Few, if any, have been more youthful or more talented than Lauren Zhang, who four years ago was winner of the BBC Young Musician Competition at the age of sixteen.

During this season the Music Club has been celebrating the works of Beethoven and each half of the concert began with a sonata from the early stages of his career, when he was equally renowned as pianist and composer. The two sonatas, both in E flat major (op.31 no.3 and op.7), were beautifully played, with careful observance of Beethoven’s detailed dynamics, directions and delightful contrasts between intricate, playful finger work and the dramatic power and resonant chords that Beethoven was exploring at this time.

 

Less well-known was Gargoyles, written in 1989 by the contemporary American composer, Lowell Liebermann. The contrasts in these four short descriptive pieces are striking - the first aggressive and motoric in its rhythmic drive, the second haunting and atmospheric, the third song-like and seductive and the fourth fierce, demonic and relentless. Lauren Zhang’s playing brought out these contrasts brilliantly.

As well as being one of the 19th century’s greatest composers for the piano, Liszt was a skilled and imaginative transcriber of the music of other composers. His transcription of Schubert’s Auf dem Wasser zu singen conveys the poetic feeling of this lovely song consummately, rising to an intense climax before subsiding to the gentle charm of the opening.

 

Réminiscences de Don Juan is widely regarded as one of Liszt’s most challenging works for piano and is based on three scenes from Mozart’s Don Giovanni. From the menace and foreboding of the condemnation of Don Giovanni by the Commendatore, through the love duet of Don Giovanni and Zerlina (gentle and tender initially and built to a passionate climax), to the effervescence of the “Champagne” aria, this is a work not only to savour, but also to admire for the immense challenges it presents to the player. The sheer authority of Lauren Zhang’s playing, with its combination of power and intricacy, created an absolutely riveting performance for a highly appreciative audience.

Lauren’s choice of the final movement of Chopin’s third piano sonata for an encore, a virtuoso piece in itself, underlined the outstanding musicianship of this brilliant young pianist.

Colin Marston



Updated on 1st May 2022
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