Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Beijing and Yundi Concert

Back from 8th trip to Beijing.

Much was un-bloggable but an account of the seminar I gave at Peking University is on the web. However the artistic highlight of the trip was undoubtedly our friend Yundi's wonderful concert on Saturday night, which we attended with the British Ambassador Sebastian Wood and his charming wife.

Yundi began with two of the Chopin pieces (Nocturnes No 1 and 2) with which he shot to fame. As always these were played with such extraordinary delicacy and feeling: I cannot forget his performances in Paris where you could imagine it was Chopin himself back in his old Parisian haunts, though alas Chopin never went to China and was impossible to forget that we were in Beijing. However these nocturnes were delicious appetizers – the main courses were three of Beethoven's most famous sonatas: the Appassionata, the Pathetique and the Moonlight.

These were astonishing performances. In each case you got the wonderful sense that everything had been thought through with a tremendous grasp of the large-scale structures, even though the playing had a sense of immediacy that kept you on the edge of your seat. Like many pianists I have grappled with the last two for years and occasionally dabbled in the Appassionata, so I know them reasonably well. Nevertheless in so many places Yundi gave new insights, fascinating details of approach, phrasing, tempo or timbre that made you think - “yes!” A really 4-Dimensional performance of power, sensitivity, grace and the deepest musicality. I could almost feel Beethoven's spirit beaming and saying to his colleague Chopin – ja ja, sehr gut!

Sebastian, who is himself a pianist with a very musical family, was also deeply impressed. Amusingly he was plucked from the audience just as we had sat down before the second half of the concert and interviewed for Chinese TV about his reactions. Apparently they had no idea when they picked him that he was the British Ambassador – they simply wanted a Westerner and he was at the end of the row.

The applause were tremendous and for encores Yundi gave arrangements of two Chinese tunes – the second was especially virtuosic and really brought the house down.

The previous evening we had attended a concert in celebration of the World Music series at the NCPA where many different Chinese musicians gave performances on traditional and modern instruments, and one dance (whispering water) in which the long-haired female dancer rotated anticlockwise continually throughout the dance like a turning waterwheel. Every time I learn a little more of Chinese culture I am deeply impressed and would love to learn more, for example about the instruments that were played. Yundi's was the final performance – Chopin of course.

He'll be touring Europe in March and April, including a concert in the Royal Festival Hall on April 18th and in Liverpool on the 19th so do do come if you can. It will be amazing! There is also his new CD with these 3 Sonatas.

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