Review: Xinyuan Wang piano concert in Sidmouth

Xinyuan Wang performing at Sidmouth Parish Church. Picture: David Hirsch

Xinyuan Wang performing at Sidmouth Parish Church. Picture: David Hirsch - Credit: David Hirsch

A world class performance from international prizewinning pianist

Xinyuan Wang, the third prize winner at the 2018 Leeds International Piano Competition last September, brought a rare and special performance of world class piano music to Sidmouth Parish Church on Saturday, February 16.

He had chosen four works which were particularly special for him, and in turn made them special for the 120-strong audience, some having travelled a distance and arranged to stay in the town for the Sidmouth Music concert.

Works by JS Bach, written for organ or harpsichord, can sound to some unsuited to a modern grand piano, or can appear dryly academic. Not so from Xinyuan who poured enthusiasm into Toccata BWV913. From the ringing start, his structures were open and articulate, his tempi dynamic and exhilarating and in slower passages produced a sense of searching pensiveness.

Schumann wrote to his beloved Clara while composing Humoresque and said he had ‘laughed and cried’ at the keyboard. Xinyuan also found a depth of emotion there, sufficient to hold the audience rapt in silence, as he played with power and animation, then sensitively and delicately, through the different sections. The work builds as if to an enormously powerful conclusion but in fact ends on a beautifully sensitive finale which, from Xinyuan, brought rapturous applause.

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After the interval he again enthralled the audience, with Rachmaninov’s Variations on a theme of Corelli. Through the 20 variations, his playing was clear, he was bold, urgent, questing, at times ethereal.

In the final quick fire fling he showed limitless energy but was still well in control of the pensive conclusion.

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The final programmed work was Bartok’s Piano Sonata, a relentlessly driven piece throughout; even the more thoughtful second movement is driven by a tolling melody.

Xinyuan was always on top of this animated, at times frenetic, masterpiece. That was not to be all however as he calmed himself, and the audience, with ‘just a little piece’ of Brahms, a sensitive and moving Intermezzo op 117/1. This had been a very special performance throughout, which brought many admiring compliments from those who had revelled in the experience.

Stephen Huyshe-Shires

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