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The first and last of the Debussy Etudes -- 'pour les Degres Chromatiques' and 'pour les Octaves' seemed most suited to Wu Qian's extrovert style of playing: the impossibly awkward octaves she tossed off like child's-play. However, her constant concern at projecting a bright luminous sound, even in the intimacy of the Purcell room, resulted in the other two Etudes- 'pour les Arpeges Composes' and 'pour les Sonorites Opposees' -- being less successful, wanting a greater textural delicacy and variety of sound.

The second half of the recital saw a rhythmically punchy set of Richard Rodney Bennett's Excursions, delivered with verve and charisma followed by a new piece written especially for the occasion from the Texan composer Brian Herrington, also a student at the Royal Academy of Music. His Fantasia on the Inner Voice, a rather gloomy exploration of solitude and loneliness, demonstrated the pianist's ability at deciphering a technically and rhythmically complex score. But it was in the final work on the programme, Liszt's Dante Sonata, where Wu Qian seemed to come into her own. This piece can so easily become a tool for empty, ostentatious virtuosity resulting in sentimental kitsch, but from the outset her interpretation proved captivating, with the hair-raising opening and often terrifyingly huge climaxes contrasted with moments of sublimely lyrical playing. The encore, Liszt's Liebestraume, further demonstrated Wu Qian's penchant for this composer, showing that this very talented pianist has got an exciting career ahead.

Copyright © 5 June 2004 Manus Carey, London UK





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