Our concerts

Beethoven, Franck and romantic dreams of the Counterpoint

6th December 2022, St John’s Smith Square, London, England
8th December 2022, Chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge, England

Come join this concert with a most delightful programme of piano music (2-hands and 4-hands) inspired by romantic dreams of the counterpoint.  Beethoven’s Op.109 sonata, one of his late sonatas and certainly one of the most loved by pianists, is on the menu, so is the majestic Bach-Busoni Chaconne in D minor, as well as two of Franck’s major triptychs for the keyboard, the much-loved Prélude, Chorale & Fugue (Op.21), and the slightly less often-performed piano transcription of the Prélude, Fugue & Variation (Op.18). 

Warren Lee will bring half of his Carnegie Hall (“ingenious” and “compelling”) programme (the Beethoven and the Bach-Busoni Chaconne) from New York to London, and he will be joined by Sylvia Chan who will be making her first appearance at St John’s Smith Square after more than 15 years and interpreting Franck’s vision of romantic counterpoints with what can be described as finger dances around B minor (and many other keys) on the chromatic scale, both of them and both very much Bach-inspired, but always looking to reach the stars and the heavens, as we also celebrate the composer’s 200th birthday this December. 

The two pianists (who combined for “the 3 song-inspired pianists” programme in Hong Kong earlier this year) will join together to play two 4-hands pieces too, one a better-known and very beautiful Bach transcription, the other a 4-hands transcription of a much lesser-known Brahms piece that was very much Bach-inspired, written for the organ and one of his final compositions, while Sylvia will start the concert with a most songful (and perhaps also soulful) Bach-Busoni transcription. 

This is the concert flyer for London; and for Cambridge.

“Songs and sonnets of travellers:  Chopin, Viardot, Liszt

7th July 2022, City Hall Theatre, Hong Kong (rescheduled from 1st July due to typhoon, and itself also rescheduled from 21st February 2022 due to Covid)

We head back into the concert hall – with joy – this July with “Songs and sonnets of travellers: Chopin, Viardot, Liszt”, where we go in search of what is personal to a composer’s heart – his or her “song” – or at least his or her cosmopolitan mind and soul, while also celebrating the friendship and collaboration between this trio of virtuosi-composers.  (A short post-concert note is here.) 

With us for this journey are 3 brilliant pianists that include Warren Lee, Hong Kong’s very own piano prodigy, who will be performing Liszt’s Vallée d’Obermann, a major piece from Book 1 (“Suisse”) of his Années de pèlerinage (Years of Pilgrimage), , as well as Chopin’s mesmerising Barcarolle, Op.60 in F sharp major, the composer’s imaginative journey into moonlight on Venetian waters, Yoonie Han a Korean-American pianist “well worth getting to know” and known for her “flowing tone …[and] heavenly singing melodies”, who will perform the Liszt transcriptions of Chopin’s Polish songs (no 2 “Spring” and no 3 “The ring” [updated]) as well as the Etudes Op.10 (no 3 “Tristesse” and no 11) while our very own Sylvia Chan will sing some French and German songs as well as probe the depths of Chopin’s Ballade no. 4 in F minor, Op.52, one of the most exalted, intense and sublimely powerful of all Chopin’s compositions.   

We will also be joined by cellist Richard Bamping (from Hong Kong Philharmonic) and man-of-letters-cum-storyteller Daniel Chua (Hong Kong University), we hope to create a 21st-century music salon, with the programme also including probably the Asian first performance of Viardot’s songs including Die Sterne (“the stars”) and Fleur desséchée (“the withered flower”), a rare performance of the songs of Liszt including Der du von dem Himmel bist (“You who come from heaven”) and Oh! quand je dors (“Ah while I sleep”), as well as Saint-Saëns’s ever-popular Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix (from Samson et Dalila, an opera dedicated to Viardot) and Fauré’s Après un rêve, an ever-popular song and one that was inspired by Viardot and the influence of Italian poetry.

The concert takes us in the first half from the travellers’ wonders about the world (“The night song, the stars and me”), to their journeys that reflect their dreams (“Journeying: dreams, beauty”) and the interesting inspirations they drew from their travels to new lands (“Inspiration from new lands”).  In the second half of the programme, we reflect a little on these composers’ longing, nostalgia for their “homeland”, and remembrances (“Longing, remembrance, reflections”), celebrate their friendships (“Friendships”), and finish with a statement about finding one’s voice and one’s song (“Give me my song”).  

This is the concert flyer; and this is the post-concert note.

“Lost in the stars … that are aligned

16th December 2019, Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge, England

Sylvia Chan and Olga Stezhko will go on a voyage of piano and song music of Bach, Franck, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Gounod, Weill, Yoshimatsu, Scriabin and Hahn, in a musical celebration of stars … sparkling, bursting, living, colliding, wished-upon, (re-)aligned, remembered … 

The Classical Group goes back to Cambridge to present its first programme in its new “Reach for the stars” concert series, to take place in the magnificent setting of the Chapel at Trinity College, Cambridge, on 16 December (which happens to be Beethoven’s birthday) at 8pm. Entitled “Lost in the stars …. that are aligned”, it will be an evening of piano music and songs in celebration of the sciences and arts of stars, including the first-ever detection of gravitational waves in 2015, the 100th anniversary of the expedition to measure and observe the solar eclipses in 1919 that provided one of the early support for Einstein’s theory, as well as the 50th anniversary of man landing on the Moon.

The programme is in 3 parts: in Part 1, we present music that is associated with heavenly harmonies: the very popular Bach transcription of a beautiful Adagio written for the oboe followed by the heavenly sublime Franck-Bauer Prélude, Fugue & Variation, and after that Scriabin’s cosmic energies-filled Préludes Op.74 and pulsating Vers la flamme that ends almost audibly as if a star is spinning and exploding on itself.

In Part 2, we present music that speaks about stars and is much more personal, with words of English and French poets that are about the hopes we project onto stars and the thoughts and emotions invoked by stars.  Stars spur memories of past loves (Debussy, Nuit d’étoiles), their rays stream from afar to touch our eyes (Gounod, Le soir), they speak to us about finding our way (Weill, Lost in the stars), but sometimes inspires us to impossible follies (Weill, Youkali), and finally the iridescent stars of the evening bring us a calm that is a perfect moment to dream (Hahn, L’heure exquise … on Verlaine’s poetry).

What better piece to start Part 3 than Debussy’s Clair de lune (inspired by Verlaine’s poem of the same name), to be followed by the classic and modern lyricisms of Rachmaninoff’s Prélude in D (Op.23, no 4) and Yoshimatsu’s To a disappeared Pleiade and finishing with Scriabin’s exhilarating “kisses of the sun” sonata.

Here is the concert flyer.

“Songful harmonies: the song-inspired piano music of Schubert, Liszt, Bartók

6th November 2018, Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge, England

We are happy to announce the second concert in the “Hear the song in the music” series – this time The Classical Singers is not singing but The Classical Group is hosting pianist Balazs Szokolay’s first appearance with and our founder Sylvia Chan’s “return” performance at Trinity College Chapel.

We continue with presenting music inspired by songs and we are inspired by the amazing variety of piano pieces that pay homages to choral works, folk songs, art songs (Lieder and others, Italian and German) that we love, and even a “forgotten” song, with a few “homage to homage” too.

The concert will start with the very Lisztian theme of “heaven and hell” and moves onto earthly folk songs (with musical “paintings” by Schubert, Liszt and Bartók , 3 Central European composers) and Liszt’s transcription and variation (more variation than transcription!) on his own “forgotten” French song, before travelling on a pilgrimage to Italy with the well-travelled and cosmopolitan Liszt (with 2 sonetti from Book 2 of his Années de pèlerinage), inspired by Petrarch’s sonnets, and ending with Schubert’s “Wanderer” seeing the light and finding affirmation in cascades of brilliant C major chords. This final piece, the Fantasie in C (“Wanderer”), of which the composer himself had said, “the devil may play it, for I cannot”, has the piano quoting directly after Schubert’s own Lied, “Der Wanderer” (D.489 / 493) (and in the “Wanderer” key of C sharp minor too).

“Hear the song in the music: Mozart, Schubert, Liszt

22nd April 2018, Shouson Theatre, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong

The Classical Singers is collaborating with a number of highly accomplished soloist musicians including acclaimed pianist Mary Wu and renowned baritone Caleb Woo on a journey of songs and piano music inspired by the songs, with a programme of music by Mozart, Schubert and Liszt, revealing fascinating connections.

The programme starts with two favourite Schubert songs, Auf dem Wasser zu Singen (sometimes known as “boating song”) and Gute Nacht (“good night”), interspersed by Liszt’s transcription of Auf dem Wasser zu Singen.  We then continue with a pairing of Mozart’s Ave Verum with a Liszt piano piece inspired by it, entitled “At the Sistine Chapel”, a piece that was dear to Liszt’s heart.  This will be followed by a pairing of Liszt ‘s choral work with his own piano transcription, one of Liszt’s settings of the Ave Maria, and the final pairing is Schubert’s Der Wanderer (D.489)a rather dramatic Schubert song, paired with Schubert’s own piano piece, Fantasie in C major (sometimes known as the “Wanderer” fantasy), a brilliantly virtuosic piece that Schubert said “the devil may play it” and quotes the Wanderer song (in C sharp minor) in its second movement. 

“Heaven + earth, beauty + love: once more

2nd September 2017, Hong Kong, Asia Society

Our 8-voice ensemble does an expanded “heaven + earth” on Saint-Saëns (Ave Verum and Calme des nuits) and Ēriks Ešenvalds (O Salutaris Hostia and Only in Sleep), two composers separated by more than a century who both contributed significantly to sacred as well as secular vocal repertoire.  

We will have the wonderful twin-sister piano duo of Lok-ping and Lok-ting Chau get us a little into the beautiful dancing mood of Brahms’ Liebesliederwalzer (Op.52a), a musical pieces that have 2 original versions, piano-4-hands-only and piano-4-hands-plus-vocal-ensemble.  

We will then continue with a number of songs that envelop us with “beauty + love” – including Stroope’s I am not yours, Elder’s Ballade to the moon, and Lauridsen’s Dirait-on.   

“Heaven + earth, beauty + love”

31st August 2016, Hong Kong, St John’s Cathedral

Our 8-voice ensemble sings Mozart’s Ave Verum, Saint-Saëns’ Ave Verum, Brahms’ Geistliches Lied, Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine and premieres Eriks Esenvalds’ Only in Sleep. 

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