Review by Eric Dare
NOT since the renowned Phyllis Sellick and Cyril Smith were here in 1955 has Truro 3 Arts hosted piano duettists. It was no surprise that Joseph Tong and Waka Hasegawa, Piano 4 Hands, attracted a full and appreciative audience last week.
For Tong, it was a return to Cornwall having lived in Redruth until he was nine and taking his Grade 1 piano in Truro – he passed, he said.
The duo began the recital with a pleasing performance of Schubert’s Fantasie in F minor, D 940. Usually heard as a solo, the doubling of some of the lines, in the bass, for instance, gave the piece an extra sonority, while the extra hand at the top could emphasise the dotted rhythm that runs through the work. It was, too, the first opportunity to appreciate the empathy of the duo not only in rhythmic precision, a given, but also in trickier moments of rubato and pause.
Debussy’s La Mer was the first of two works usually heard in the orchestral version. The sound pictures of wind and sea that the composer suggests were there to be heard, though it was the pounding of the waves – and the piano – that made the greater impact. This overbearing percussion, generally throughout the rest of the programme, was what disappointed me. Possibly the performance would have sounded better in a concert hall rather than in the more intimate Mylor Theatre.
John McCabe’s Two Scenes from Edward II, the lighter The French Court with its suggestion of dances and The Barons reflecting the hammer blows of their weapons and their chargers, had been adapted and gifted to the duo.
The climax of the evening was The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky who wrote it for four hands. It is the orchestral version that is best known and after this hearing, I can understand why. Tong and Hasegawa’s performance was heroic and acknowledged by some with a standing ovation; but it was a relief to hear the gentler En Bateau by Debussy for an encore.