European evening reveals unique talents

Pianists Bernice Chua and Caitlan Rinaldy.

Music / “A European Evening”, Bernice Chua, piano and Caitlan Rinaldy, piano. At the Wesley Music Center, August 27. Reviewed by TONY MAGE.

BERNICE Chua and Caitlan Rinaldi are both studying advanced piano technique and repertoire at Mozarteum University in Salzburg and have returned to Canberra to give a series of concerts including works for solo piano, works for four hands (on a piano ) and works for two pianos.

The Wesley concert was the finale of their series and featured each pianist in a solo performance in each half, complete with a surprise encore!

Something that immediately stood out and was unique to both pianists compared to local performers was the mental preparation before they started playing. A good 10 seconds of thought and concentration was used after sitting down on the bench before their fingers hit the keyboard.

Rinaldi opened the program with “Ballade No. 4 in F Minor Op. 52″. A huge and demanding work, she played with great sensitivity and expression, using a lot of rubato, alternating pianissimo passages and then, for most of this one-movement work, forte and double-forte passages.

Rinaldi creates a beautiful, singsong tone, derived from a very relaxed weight technique, capable of achieving massive dynamic range without bashing.

Liszt’s “Rhapsodie Espagnole S. 254” followed and, like the earlier Chopin, showcased Rinaldy’s unique phrasing and approach to cadence points in each piece. His interpretations are his own, they do not copy any other recording that I know of. It’s a wonderful thing, where young artists are encouraged and able to find their own methods and creative interpretations of often performed works.

Playing fluidly and lyrically, she brings out the bass line melody, characteristic of this piece, with clarity. His Liszt sometimes displayed elements of a “bravery” style of playing, which is appropriate for his music.

After the intermission, Bernice Chua took the stage, giving herself another good 10 seconds of mental preparation before hitting the keyboard. In a unique rendition of the “Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 23″, Chua started out with a lot more pianissimo than other artists would normally hear, gradually and gradually building dynamic nuances into a powerful, furious double forte.

Even though these two young artists study with the same teacher in Salzburg – Professor Andreas Weber – their playing styles are very different.

Chau extracts a lilting tone from the piano in quiet, lyrical passages, while greater dynamics reveal an almost percussive effect from the instrument. Being able to do both is a technique that works for many pieces, and while it’s a unique interpretation, there are other ways to play it as well.

Ending with “Piano Sonata No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 22″, a huge and demanding work in four movements, Chua kicked off the overture with a punchy tone, before settling back into a singsong, soft and highly expressive pianissimo in the second movement, each phrase measured and punctuated by a large musical thought and interpretation.

The final moments ‘Scherzo’ and ‘Rondo’ were played without a break, the former being bright and lively, bringing out melodic left-hand phrases with authority and purpose.

Both performers play with great clarity of line and phrasing, making every note count, with their smooth, relaxed techniques and restrained use of the sustain pedal.

An encore “piano four hands” crowned the evening, “Italian Polka” by Rachmaninoff and it was done with style and flair.

In summary, I want to emphasize that these two artists are extremely talented pianists but with very different playing styles. One of their greatest strengths is being able to shape and formulate their performances in unique ways.

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Ian Meikle, editor


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