Joseph Tong and Waka Hasegawa's fascinating programme on July 22 brought a large and appreciative audience to Wigmore Hall, an audience well rewarded with consistently excellent musicianship and playing of high technical accomplishment. They began with Poulenc's Sonata for Two Pianos (1953), one of the French genius's most serious and probing works; this was superbly performed, being followed by the relative rarity of Britten's Introduction and Rondo alla Burlesca Opus 23 No 1 (1940), which proved to be so compelling a work as to cause one to regret once more the composer's failure to leave at least one major keyboard piece in his output. Grainger's Porgy and Bess Fantasy is an outstandingly original recomposition of one genius's work by another; Grainger does not, at any time, follow the opera sequentially - but the result is a genuine 'fantasy', as he perceived the genre. This found Tong and Hasegawa on equally consistently fine form. The novelty in the programme, beginning the second half, was Three Miniatures for Two Pianos by Dai Fujikura - in total seven minutes - and their recital concluded with the most significant piece of the evening, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. On this occasion, we heard the duet version played on two pianos, a change which is not invariably to be recommended for this duet score was the first to be published of the work, in 1914...the result overall brought out the inherent excitement of this immortal score in a thrilling account from these gifted players.
My own three-day slice of Cheltenham began with a summoning of bells in high Poulencian style - the 1950s Sonata for Two Pianos played by Joseph Tong and Waka Hasegawa. This duo must have muscles of steel for the kind of mega-programme they were offering. Theirs was hardly the usual morning aperitif in the fabulous Pittville Pump Room, approached in my case via the most heavenly rus in urbe walk imaginable across the lawns and around the lake of the Pittville Estate from the peaceful Townhouse just within the boundaries of spa-exploiter Joseph Pitt's once-exclusive Elysium. The first half alone also embraced Britten's surprisingly monumental Introduction and Rondo all Burlesca, the obliquely charming miniature childsplay of Dai Fujikura's brand-new Three Miniatures - this has been quite a year for him already - and Grainger's epic ramble through Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, showing an equal master's touch in the playful transcription of "It Ain't Necessarily So".
Tong and Hasegawa are well matched: he excels in the Russian-school thunder, she in the clarion carillons at the top of the register. Their Rite of Spring was well-tempered and always clear-textured, if not cumulatively overwhelming. Balm came with the encore - Poulenc's ravishing but simple Élégie, a piece I fell in love with only a few months ago and little thought I'd hear in live performance so soon. Poulenc's proposed cognac on the piano and a cigar in hand would have to be imagined for health and safety reasons, quipped Tong, but the nostalgic tribute to a lost friend certainly touched the necessary depths.
Rachmaninov’s towering Suite No 2, for two pianos, one of them the piano used by the composer himself when touring England – a bespoke composition, one could say – played by Joseph Tong and Waka Hasegawa will probably go down as the highlight of the current season at the Wiltshire Music Centre.
It concluded a programme prefaced by a reception for supporters of this jewel of a venue at which important Arts Council funding was announced, adding even more significance to the choice of programme.
These two performers – as Piano 4 Hands probably now unmatched anywhere as a piano duo – have a synergy that borders on the surreal. How do they, sitting 14 or so feet away from each other, start so precisely together and, even more difficult, finish together? Yes, practice, practice, of course; but… The Rachmaninov, full-blooded yet with its moments of delicacy, was played with pertness and a crispness that was all enveloping; its richness drained the emotions; it made two pianos sound like a full orchestra. Chopin, Debussy, even Stravinsky to make the cup run over – any of those pieces could have been the star of the evening but for sheer versatility, Percy Grainger’s Fantasy on Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess was just out of this world.
With mellifluous tones from the newly-donated Steinway Concert Grand, duetists Joseph Tong and Waka Hasegawa gave a stately beginning to Schubert's Fantasie in F minor as they passed the themes seamlessly one to another in yesterday's lunchtime recital.
A statuesque and emphatic slow section then preceded a grand progression to the work's final resolution.
John McCabe's recent composition, Upon Entering a Painting, is dedicated to the pianists, and it was not so much hearing paint drying as listening to it dripping in ever- increasing quantities as the layers and colours built up.
This was a deftly-handled four-handed musical painting (though certainly not a quiet landscape) that might well have included fast-flowing water towards the end.
And so to the somewhat more genteel opening picture of Ravel's Rapsodie Espagnole. Just as evocative as the previous work, though, and starting with a romantic flourish enclosing the two shorter dances before a reminder of summer days to come perhaps in the warmth of Spain.
The whole programme was played with great panache and sensitivity by this award-winning combination, who made perfect harmony for a lunchtime break.
This second CD from this excellent double-act fulfils the promise of their first. And if Schubert’s Great Fantasie in F minor is familiar, these other fruits of his final year are less so; some of the harmonic shifts in the A flat major Variations offer a glimpse of the way his music might have developed. Tong and Hasegawa constantly swap roles, but their exhilarating pianism is wonderfully even. ★★★★★
JOSEPH Tong and Waka Hasegawa played brilliantly in the Brewhouse's International Concert Series last week.
Regular performers all over the world, they showed why they have won many prestigious piano duet prizes and their visit to Taunton was a triumph.
Starting with Mozart's youthful D major Sonata (written when he was only 16) they then moved on to Schubert, a composer with whom they obviously have a great affinity.
The B minor Andantino variations were followed by a fine performance of his A Major Rondo.
The biggest work of the evening was Schubert's mighty F Minor Fantasia, and it was given an equally mighty presentation.
Time and again Tong and Hasegawa played as if they were one performer, their musical lines blending to perfection.
If I have a criticism at all, it was perhaps that in this piece they missed a few opportunities for dynamic contrast - everything seemed a little high-powered.
The highlights of the evening for me were Mendelssohn's Allegro Brillante, preceded by an only recently discovered andante prelude in the same key, and a stunning performance of Ravel's exciting and fiendishly difficult Rhapsodie Espagnole - this was full of drama and colour and was a fitting climax to the evening.
We were also treated to a lovely encore in the form of one of Dvorak's Slavonic dances.
Charmed by accomplished technique and musicality
In Debussy’s Six epigraphes, the evocation of each poem’s individual character in the various movements was expressively brought out. The concert ended with the highlight of tonight’s programme, La Mer by Debussy which showed three different faces of the sea and the duo created a fantastically colourful palette. I much enjoyed this evening’s recital and this is down to these two highly accomplished players and their wonderful musicianship.
Although they [Piano 4 Hands] are based in London, their growing reputation as a piano duo is also true in Japan. Their wide-ranging repertoire as well as their polished technique are both notable and they are certainly building their successful career in this genre.They managed to maintain their own individuality in their tone and the fine balance they achieve enhances the attractiveness of the music. I must say that they are now opening up new windows in the world of the piano duet.
The appeal of Piano 4 Hands Joseph Tong and Waka Hasegawa is in their skill to enable the audience to discover and to feel the music in depth. In the Sonata for piano duet by Poulenc, the impressive opening of the first movement and powerful finale were both very well characterised. In contrast, their cantabile playing was well suited to Schubert, in the Fantasie. The new works by Motoki Hirai were well thought out and the unique inspiration and ideas behind these pieces were humorously performed. The duo’s vital playing and expressive dynamics contributed to the audience’s enjoyment of works by York Bowen, Dai Fujikura and Debussy.
The piano duet recital given by Joseph Tong and Waka Hasegawa at the Wigmore Hall on 24th November, presented by the Kirckman Concert Society, was interesting programme of established masterpieces for the medium alongside a new work by the British composer Edwin Roxburgh, who, amazingly it seems, celebrates his 70th birthday this year. He certainly does not begin to look his age and the perennial youthfulness of his musical work betokens a mind constantly refreshed by a young outlook. The work in question, receiving its World Premiere, was Homage to Debussy, a splendid piece in three movements, each suggested as it were by one of the French master's works, Roxburgh's titles being Jardins sur la neige, L'Isle enchantée and Reflets dans la Glace, the music suffused by a welcome neo-Impressionism, underpinned by a strong sense of contrapuntal writing and keyboard colouration, especially in the second piece. The performance greatly pleased the composer and was keenly enjoyed by the large and appreciative audience. Earlier, the recital had begun with two works by Schubert, the Allegro in A minor and the great F minor Fantasie, and in the second half we heard Debussy's own Six Epigraphes Antiques followed by the original first piano duet version of La Mer, which was orchestrated a few month later. These were both outstandingly well played.
Full house for piano recital
Piano 4Hands, Joseph Tong and Waka Hasegawa, gave a stylish and sensitive performance which demonstrated their immaculate technique in this second concert of the Morpeth Music Society season. There was a full house for the recital which opened with Mozart Andante- the duo giving an impeccable and lighthearted performance of this evergreen of the duet repertoire. Their mood changed radically with Schubert's Lebenssturme, meaning "Life's storms", in which passion, tragedy and peace were portrayed vividly. Joseph then performed the primo part in Schubert's Fantasie, his luminous playing of the opening theme upholding his comment that this work is considered to be the greatest piano duet ever composed. Edwin Roxburgh's Reflets dans la Glace ended the first half. A new sound world was created here, especially when the composer used chord clusters. One felt the temperature drop below freezing in this music. The second half was devoted to Debussy, starting with Six Epigraphes Antiques, which showed a close affinity to his earlier piano music. Then came Marche Ecossaise, commissioned by General Meredith Reid in 1891 who supplied the Scottish March theme which Debussy followed in the subsequent composition. The final piece in the programme was La Mer, a wonderful evocation of the ebb and flow of the sea in all its moods and is better known in its orchestrated version, however it was the duet that came first. After a long and enthusiastic applause plus a short encore the audience allowed the artists to leave the stage bringing an end to a memorable concert.
Joseph Tong and Waka Hasegawa have the reputation of being one of British's most exciting piano duos and their concert in aid of St. Matthew's Church, Addis Ababa, confirmed this. The musical items were well balanced, beginning with Mozart's Sonata in F major, KV497. Mozart wrote the piece to play with his sister Nannerl and the performers pick up and repeat the same music in delightfully different ways. Next came Debussy's La Mer, which he described as three symphonic sketches, but really this is un urgent three-movement symphony in all but name.
The second half gave us a specially commissioned piece composed by Matthew Rogers called Swing and Roundabouts. It was simplistic, repetitive, discordant and modern. It ran for nine minutes, but I would like to hear it again because it got to me.
Schubert's Fantasia for piano duet, D940 provided a reversal with Waka playing secondo and Joseph the primo. Schubert's piano sonatas were his musical notebooks but this non sonata is of parallel stature and our pianists gave it full value. Finally we had Three Slavonic Dances by Dvorak, who did not use folk tunes but his music is so steeped in their turns of phrase that real Bohemian folk music often sounds false.
New music is no longer tough, trying or just plain terrifying-quite the opposite. That was the refreshing conclusion from two concerts in the University's Spring Festival of New Music. The duo-pianists Joseph Tong and Waka Hasegawa offered the British keyboard premiere of two scenes from John McCabe's ballet suite Edward II, with taut, springy syncopation that was supremely physical.
They also included two works inspired by Ovid's Metamorphoses. Paul Robinson's Eris, for piano duet, was less facinating in its relentless momentum than for its meditative centre and the "beats" of its heavy final chords.
Nicola LeFanu's new Echo and Narcissus exquisitely conjures a watery environment. It was impossible not to smile at its clear reflections, its delicate echoes and -above all-its quivering ripples, all shot through with drama and delightfully nuanced by the players.
Coming at the end of a largely percussive programme, it was refreshment indeed.
Sometimes two pairs hands are better than one. This proved true last Sunday at the Steyning Centre in an Adur Arts concert hosted by composer Chris Gander. Performing on a Steinway piano that gave as good as it got, the English pianist Joseph Tong and Japanese partner Waka Hasegawa gave it plenty. The nationally acclaimed couple declared "it did all they wanted it to do". They sat us bolt upright with piece one, Schubert's Lebensturme, continuing with this composer's sublime Fantasy, "one of the greatest duets ever written" said Joseph. The world premiere of Chris Gander's Piano Duo Fortissimo, was written for the duo. Not an easy piece but very uplifting. We remained on a high with two Dvorak Slavonic Dances.
The second half continued with Edwin Roxburgh's sparkling Reflets dans la Glace (2002) and Debussy's Six Epigraphs Antiques. At the last, a tangle of hands breathed life into Debussy's La Mer, a complicated piece he wrote originally for piano before he orchestrated it. It evoked the sea in all its capriciousness. The couple encored with a fetching Scottish piece by Debussy to complete a hugely satisfying concert full of drama, subtlety and passion.
Joseph Tong and Waka Hasegawa were making their first appearance at St George's in the second recital of the Thursday Lunchtime Series. It is not often one hears piano duets on one instrument and it is important on these occasions that the two players know exactly what the other is doing.This was certainly the case with this duo. Mozart's Sonata in F opened slowly with gentle harmonies being replaced later in the movement with more turbulent chords. A hushed Andante led into the sprightly Allegro in which the nimble fingers of both artistes were particularly evident. Schubert's Fantasia in F-Minor is the composer's best-known piano duet and was written in the last year of his life. Like so many of his piano pieces it is not technically challenging but demands an acute sensitivity from both players. Cast in four sections there is a marvellously tuneful opening with a dramatic largo. An assertive scherzo and a defiant finale shoed the duo's ability to convey a variety of feelings in a compelling account of this masterly work. Ravel's La Valse, in the arrangement for piano duet, expects the pianists to put in a tremendous effort and this was definitely so in their powerful performance. ★★★★★
There's a new piano duet in town and it's worth listening out for.Joseph Tong and Waka Hasegawa formed their partnership in 1997 and have been busy garnering critical praise and prizes ever since. I heard them on Radio 3's In Tune recently and looked forward to hearing them live. It was no disappointment. Their combined energy spent musical sparks across a wide radius. Schubert's Lebenstsuturme is a dark work of great contrasts and these two didn't miss a trick in conveying that. It was the sort of playing that keeps you on the edge of your seat and we all stayed on ours through the next item, also by Schubert. Variations on an Original Theme in A flat was full of the same sort of contrasts but less familiar, proving a veritable whirlwind of notes.
Edwin Roxburgh's Reflets dans la Glance, a work rewarding for players and listeners alike, dates from 2003. The composer imaginatively made considerably dramatic use of the full range of the piano. He was present and was acknowledged enthusiastically by the audience. Dvorak's Two Slavonic Dances may be pot-boilers but were an arrangement of Ravel's La Valse and the sparkling finale of Faure's Dolly Suite. ★★★★
Joseph Tong and Waka Hasegawa gave a splendidly vital programme of music for four hands at the Wigmore Hall on 5 February. Mozart’s great Sonata in F major K 497 was played with sensitivity as well as verve. Schubert’s rarely-heard Variations on an Original Theme D 813 found these artists in tune with the composer’s poetic vision, and Debussy’s Petite Suite was vibrant with colour.In sharp contrast we heard a virile account of Brahms' Variations on a theme by Schumann. Ravel’s piano duet version of La Valse brought this rewarding evening to a spirited conclusion.
"A wonderful display of virtuosity carried off with complete confidence, skill and musicality"
"Precision-tooled piano duettists"
"The sparky piano duet of Waka Hasegawa and Joseph Tong"
“Brilliant new performers”