On Wednesday 9 February, we welcomed Alan to the stage as part of our lunchtime concert series, to perform two of the great piano solo repertoire pieces, each one preceded by a lesser-known work. It was immediately apparent that this would be a recital of great craft and thinking. Everything was impeccably prepared, the music stand removed, the silk handkerchief delicately placed inside the piano, sheet music almost hidden away as if it might disturb the atmosphere. Care and attention to detail enveloped the whole recital.
Alan opened his programme with a short piece Heldenklage by the philosopher Nietzsche. Perhaps for good reason, Nietzsche is not known for his musical compositions, but the piece allows a window into the philosopher’s thoughts and expressions, and Alan gave the audience an insight into his own way of thinking and expressing. This followed neatly into Debussy’s infamous Clair de Lune, where the performer successfully conjured up the atmosphere of moonlight, making use of the extensive sonorities and colours that the keyboard player has at his fingertips.
As a prelude to the final item on the programme (Chopin’s Ballade no 1 in G minor), Alan introduced the audience to a miniature piece by the same composer. Largo in E flat, its melody being an old Polish hymn written out by Chopin during his final years as an organist, was presented with poise and understanding of the harmonic seriousness of this piece. The great Ballade allowed Alan to show off his technical accomplishments at the keyboard, highlighting his beautiful legato playing, as well as the more introverted characters of Chopin’s work. Tempo changes were well judged, with Alan guiding the audience carefully through the journey of this piece.
Huge congratulations to Alan, not only for his offer of a place at Cambridge to read Music next academic year, but also for this accomplished and considered recital. One had a sense that we were listening to a future philosopher at the piano.
Click here to watch Alan Liu’s performance.