A post-concert note: (wintry) dreams of the counterpoint, being inspired

Sylvia & Warren_Trinity concert_8.12.22 - recut

“Two Hong Kong-born pianists explore and celebrate the inventiveness and brilliance of polyphony in a concert of works by Beethoven, Busoni, Brahms, Franck, and J.S. Bach, the supreme master of the art and craft of counterpoint”, so wrote a concert previewer.

It was very interesting to present a two-pianists concert, in two places too, London and Cambridge, with the same programme and with two Hong Kong-born pianists. Interesting also that the two pianists, Warren Lee and Sylvia Chan, have two piano teachers in common even if they never overlapped in time.   

It was also very unusual for both pianists to play 2-hands as well as 4-hands music in the same piano concert, and in this case, both pianists have significant ensemble experience while being trained as solo pianists. 

Importantly, the two pianists were good sports, playing in the sparsely-heated Trinity College Chapel in freezing weather, all in the name of César Franck’s 200th birthday!

It was therefore heartening to receive comments about how unusual the programme is.  “Know that for all of us the evening of music with you was very special”

The music created by these two pianists is powerful and gentle, emotional and intellectual, romantic and unforgettable!”

With all that, we had a “beautiful concert” at St John’s Smith Square in London, with a very attentive audience, while the Cambridge audience seems to appreciate the 4-hands Bach-Kurtág piece most as well as Warren’s Chaconne that ended the programme with great flourish.  The two pianists offered Le jardin de Dolly from Fauré’s much-loved 4-hands work, Dolly Suite, for encore in London, and switched to the 4-hands arrangement of Gluck’s “Dance of the blessed spirit” (from the ballet in the French version of his Orphée et Eurydice) in Cambridge. 

We were happy to have been able to include in the programme – amongst the Beethoven and the Franck – a rare outing of one of Brahms’ Chorale Preludes, the number 8 from his Op.122 (Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen [“Behold, a rose is blooming”]), his very last work and originally written for the organ (the 4-hands piano arrangement made by one of Brahms’ students and friends), as well as the Bach transcription Ich rufzu dirHerr Jesu Christ, a prayer-like short piece transcribed for the piano by Busoni and a piece where the right-hand melodic line stays almost entirely within one octave. 

Trying to get the fingers to move in such freezing cold was a challenge and spurred some reflections on what performing is all about.  It is about many things including a collective act of attentive listening but related to this is also a shared joy and wonderment at the amazing works these great composers created, some 200 years ago.  (Indeed and interestingly, Beethoven’s op.109 sonata was written around the same time as Franck was born.) 

We all need inspirations: doesn’t hearing these wonderful, magnificent, brilliant variations, imaginations, re-imaginations – “dreams” – of the counterpoint bring some inspirations to you? 

Here is a snippet of the Gluck “dance of the blessed spirit” from the rehearsal at St John’s

Our pre-concert note on the programme is here.

We are also sharing our concert programme booklet that introduces each piece of music. 

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