Friday, January 26, 2007

Enter the young: Laszlo Fassang and Xuefei Yang

Next weekend, on Saturday, February 3, we have two performances, both by extraordinarily talented young musicians...names you may not know, but whose immense musical gifts you will undoubtedly recognize when you hear them perform. Both are making their Spivey Hall debuts.

The ability to improvise is a talent more appreciated these days in jazz, perhaps, than in classical music, but remember that the young Beethoven first made a name for himself in Vienna as a pianist who could astound the noble gentility by the boldness and virtuosity of his improvisations. There are living, prominent pianists who improvise: Robert Levin often asks audiences to give him a theme, and he will create several short improvisations as part of a recital or concerto performance. Gabriela Montero (who made her NY Philharmonic debut with Lorin Maazel fairly recently) enjoys extended improvisation -- you may have heard her improvise if you listen to Performance Today, and I believe she's released a commericial recording of some of her classically-inspired improvisations -- Bach continues to inspire musicians. (Hey...why don't we have a Spivey Hall Spring Bach Festival? Whatta concept!) In a similar spirit, Mitsuko Uchida never plays the same Mozart piano concerto cadenza twice, preferring instead to capture the spirit of the moment and create something new for each concert, heightening the sense of occasion.

What was really sensational at the 2002 Calgary International Organ Festival and Competition (as I am told by those who attended, as well as by the newspaper reports) was the genius shown by the young Hungarian Laszlo Fassang in creating brilliant improvisations. He won the gold medal for improvisation and a highly enthusiastic response from the audience as well as the judges. Thus it's fitting he will conclude his Spivey Hall debut recital (Feb 3 at 3:00 PM, with a 2:00 pm pre-concert talk by Spivey Hall Organist-in-Residence Richard Morris) with an improvisation on a given theme. Mr. Fassang has also arranged and will perform Bach's Chaconne, BWV 1004 (originally for violin) and four Hungarian Dances by Brahms for the organ. Without doubt, there's a vivid imagination in Lazslo's approach to the organ, and we're in for a treat. The program also includes Bach's Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major, BWV 564, and Franck's Choral in A minor, Op. 40, plus five Choral Preludes by Brahms.

Later that evening, at 8:15 pm, 28-year-old Chinese guitarist Xuefei Yang (approximately "shwoe-fay yahng" -- more readily "Fei" to her friends) will be heard in Atlanta for the first time. She was the first guitar student to enter any music school in China, and the first Chinese guitarist to really attain prominence in the international guitar world. Fei now lives in London, and she's recording for the EMI label -- the first CD is being released now to coincide with her US tour. She recently peformed at London's Wigmore Hall, nearly selling it out (550 seats), and wins accolades everywhere. She, too, is giving us a highly imaginative program (a bit different than first announced almost a year ago):

ALBENIZ Asturias
BARRIOS Un Sueño en la Floresta
RODRIGO Tres piezas españolas: Fandango, Passacaglia & Zapateado

GOSS Blue Kite, Yellow Earth and Farewell My Concubine (written for her in 2004)

MOREL El Condor Pasa
LAURO Seis por derecho
VILLA LOBOS Prelude No.1 and Four Studies (Nos. 8, 7, 11 and 12)

Xuefei Yang is on the February 2007 cover of ClassicFM magazine (published in London) with the somewhat breathless subhead, "John Williams liked her so much, he gave her his guitar!" (an instrument by famous Australian guitarmaker, Greg Smallman). But it's true, and this is deeply significant, when you consider Fei's statement, "My parents had to save very hard to buy my first really good guitar, which cost them the same as an apartment." The review of her new CD, Romance de Amor, concludes with an emphatic statement: "Simply sensational." Fei's program includes some of the works on her CD, which will be available at her Spivey Hall recital, and she looks forward to greeting people after her performance.

Enter the young. Be prepared to be amazed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Violist Roger Chase Was amazing, hopefully he will be heard in Spivey once agian.

7:37 PM  
Blogger Spivey Hall said...

Very glad you enjoyed Roger Chase. (I heard just the beginning of his recital before dashing off to the Atlanta Symphony to hear their performance of Der Rosenkavalier.) Thanks are actually due to the Clayton State Dept. of Music, which presented Mr. Chase at Spivey Hall as part of the faculty/guest artist series with Dr. Michiko Otaki, who performs happily and often with Roger Chase. I'll make sure they know of your comment. Thanks!

4:54 PM  

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