Outside, the winds may have been touching gale-forced pitch, but inside you could hear a pin drop as acclaimed international pianist Angela Cheng mesmerized another full house at this year’s opening concert for Oceanside Classical Concerts, at Knox United Church.
Cheng, a virtuoso par excellence, let her fingers and perfect control of the keyboard hypnotize the audience while she deftly moved from the softest of notes to the intense crescendos, pausing perfectly as she interpreted works of Haydn, Beethoven and Chopin. Taking time to introduce each selection, Cheng gave thoughtful insight into the composers and the musical scores. She delved into the mystique of Beethoven’s Sonata no. 31 in A-flat Major, Op. 110, and the fact that Beethoven’s loss of hearing was for him a tragedy, but it didn’t stop his internalizing of the music he wanted and needed to explore and share. As well Cheng said, when talking about Chopin, one of her favourite composers, “imagine what he might have left us with had he lived beyond 39”.
At times during the concert it was as if it was just you and Cheng; attendees enjoying their own personal recital conveyed by a piano genius. The intimacy was overpowering and the intensity, an emotional experience. Cheng’s passion and total involvement with each piece was obvious. It was a love-affair of sorts, a ménage a trois (composer, the score and the pianist).
The second half of the concert was devoted to Chopin, and throughout Cheng’s playing of Noctune in D-flat Major, Op. 27, no. 2; Polonaise-Fantasie in A-flat Major, Op. 61 and Ballade no. 1 in G Minor, Op. 23, the audience was overwhelmed with the complexity and range of the composer’s vision and Cheng’s delivery. It was, as she explained later, “a joy of interpreting the colours, feeling the emotions and conveying the experience of the composer that I feel is so essential”. It worked because the audience replied with a sustained standing ovation for her efforts.
In closing Cheng returned to the stage for an encore and played Theme & Variations by Cécile Chaminade, a light, lively and impassioned score reflective of the late-Romantic French music era.
Submitted by Don Dempson