Surrey Mozart Players
Menuhin Hall, Cobham
Saturday, 19 January, 2008
Kodaly- Summer Evening (1905)
Schumann- Piano Concerto in A minor
Bobby Chen, piano
Haydn- Symphony no. 101 in D major (“The Clock.”)
Kodaly’s early masterwork, Summer Evening, written in 1905 is a study in atmosphere and color and is already full of the beautiful folk-styled melodies that would characterize his music throughout his life. I had put off programming the piece for many years based on some disappointing experiences playing it in orchestra, but last year I actually had time to look at the score and realized Kodaly was not to blame for my previous frustration.
Atmosphere is also key in Schumann’s understated, elegiac and elusive Piano Concerto…
Full of subtle colors and elusive moods, performing this music is like catching smoke with your fingers, but well worth the effort. This is the third major installment in the SMP’s Schumann Rediscovered series- last season we played the Third Symphony and the Cello Concerto, and this season will also include performances of the Genoveva Overture on the gala final concert of the 2008 Guildford Spring Music Festival in March and the Second Symphony on our season finale in June. Schumann Rediscovered continues next year with performances of the Fourth Symphony, the Konzerstucke for Four Horns and the Overture Scherzo and Finale among other works.
Our soloist this week is the outstanding Malaysian pianist Bobby Chen, making his return to the SMP after a highly praised debut in the Mozart K 488 in A major last year.
Concluding the concert is Haydn’s witty, wise, wonderful, subversive, virtuosic, rustic, intricate, laid back, seat-of-the-pants, epic, concise and life-affirming Symphony no. 101.
Bobby Chen, piano
One of the most respected young artists of his generation, Bobby Chen, born in Sandakan , Malaysia , burst on the scene in 1996 with a sensational season of concerts, which included a British tour with Lord Menuhin in a performance of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto and a recital at the Royal Festival Hall as part of the South Bank Prokofiev Festival.
Since then, regular appearances in mainstream London and British venues such as Bridgewater Hall, the Royal Concert Hall, the Royal Festival Hall, Purcell Room and the Wigmore Hall have contributed to Chen’s remarkably fast rise as a household name in Britain and the Far East .
Ruth Nye, who nurtured his precocious talent in 1991 at the Yehudi Menuhin School, brought him to the Royal Academy of Music where Chen also worked with Hamish Milne. During his four-year spell there, Chen won no fewer than eight coveted awards, noticeably that for ‘Best Final Recital’. He was also awarded numerous scholarships including the prestigious ‘Yamaha European Foundation Scholarship’ and ‘Royal Overseas League Prize’, which enabled him to collaborate with artists such as Dmitri Bashkirov, Fanny Waterman, John Lill, Charles Rosen, Nikolai Demidenko and Krystian Zimerman.
His highly successful concerto début in 1998 with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra playing Rachmaninov’s Paganini Variations led to collaboration with conductors Maximiliano Valdes, Lan Shui, Sir Neville Marriner, Lord Menuhin, Pierre-Andre Valade and several orchestras including the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Warsaw Sinfonia and the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra.
He has since travelled to Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, China, Japan, the USA and most of Europe. In Kuala Lumpur, his performance at the Petronas Towers of Beethoven’s first Piano Concerto with Sir Marriner was so warmly received, he was asked to return for a series of recitals in the country and concerto performances with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra in 2003.Chen’s commercial recordings include the acclaimed ‘Live at the Wigmore Hall’ recording for the Jaques Samuel label with which he previously recorded a solo CD of works by Haydn, Liszt, Schubert and Stravinsky. Chen also recorded for the ‘Cello Classics’ label with cellist Leonid Gorokhov and broadcasted on Classic FM.
Recent highlights include Bobby Chen’s return to Malaysia for performances of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra under Matthias Bamert, solo recitals in central London, appearances at the London Chamber Music Festival and in Sweden, broadcasting for the Radio Television Hong Kong and PianoForte Chicago (USA and concerto appearances in the USA and with London Sinfonietta at Cadogan Hall. Forthcoming appearances include chamber music tours in Ireland as well as solo recitals at Worcester Three Choirs Festival, Malaysia and participation in the Beethoven Sonatas Cycle as part of NAFA’s (Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts) 70th Anniversary Celebration in Singapore. Bobby will also be giving world premieres of a concerto and a solo piano work written especially for him.
As well as his busy solo career, Bobby is also a keen chamber musician. He has recently played with violinists Lee Huei Min, Ken Aiso and the soprano Matilda Paulsson and will tour with Elizabeth Cooney and Jane O’Hara as the Syrius Piano Trio in the coming months.