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Wu Qian (piano)

Bach/Busoni          Chaconne

Albeniz                  Iberia Book 1

Schumann             Kreisleriana Op.16

Blackheath Halls 28 January 2007

This was an auspicious Blackheath debut for a still young pianist who has been accumulating accolades which this recital confirmed to be reliable. News had preceded her appearance before a sold out hall.

Wu Qian already has a huge repertoire and had given the fiendishly difficult Night Fantasies of Elliot Carter and Ligeti's Etudes at the Purcell Room when she only 16! Her platform manner is mature and not at all flamboyant; she might do well to get a different publicity photographer.

The Busoni elaboration of the Chaconne, originally for baroque violin, is something of a monster, and somewhat overwhelming in the samll Recital Room at Blackheath, and indeed the whole programme . The Brahms version (for left hand only) would have been more suitable for the venue. (I hope Wu Qian will soon turn her attention to Busoni himself, still an under-rated composer of enormous individuality, one whose pianistic subtleties should suit her.)

The Albeniz selection displayed a wide range of pianistic attributes; idiomatic rhythm, easy command of the difficult colouration of accompaniment figures, immaculate pedalling so that a wide dynamic range and full sonority was never blurred. Her level of accuracy was formidable and one felt that not only were there no wrong notes, but the right ones were struck right in the middle and with exactly the right dynamic and voicing in the texture of the whole. She should become a notable exponent of the complete work, a pinnacle of Spanish piano repertoire.

The chief pleasure of the recital awaited us after the interval, and she showed great affinity with Schumann's waywardness.
I was puzzled by her alternating treatment of the recurring figure in the Arabesque, and too by a brusque forte bar in Kreisleriana, but found the latter prescribed by the composer. Clearly Wu Qian has pondered the score deeply, but allows herself some leeway to express her own individuality in these 'Fantasien'. Only one encore, an Elegy by a composer whose name eluded us - the audience would have wished more!

The sight-lines are poor in the Recital Room and most of us could not watch Wu Qian's hands during the recital, so do click onto the generous video clips on line, at http://www.margaretmurphy.com/qian/sounds.htm

Peter Grahame Woolf