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Fine Music Magazine - May 2012

Hoang Pham: Live at Elisabeth Murdoch Hall

Hoang Pham, in his middle twenties, is at that slightly awkward stage in his career when garlanded with a number of honours – best Australian pianist at the Sydney competition, winner of the Lev Vlassenko competition – and with concerts in Europe and America as well as in Australia under his belt, he has reached the plateau experienced by most young performers: well past the stage of ‘promising’ but not yet completely accepted into the absolutely top rank.

This recital disc will do him absolutely no harm with concert promoters and orchestral managers: Chopin and Bach as a firm central platform, with Liszt and Paderewsky filling out the second of the two discs.

The performance was recorded ‘live’ in Melbourne, which demonstrates two things – first that Pham is one of those pianists who can utterly control his audience: you can almost feel the intensity of its attention; and second that ‘live’ recordings have it over studio recordings every time, and in spades.

As to the program itself, the performances both of the complete Chopin Preludes, op 28 and the Bach English Suite no 6 in D minor have an individuality which marks out the extremely positive fact that this is a pianist who can project his own personality without in any way imposing it; I suspect that in a very few years one will be able to recognise a Pham recording after the first few bars.

The Bach is a good example of this: very little pedal, an occasional slightly unusual use of pianissimo, but great poise and assurance. His technique is unimpeachable, and demonstrated both in Liszt’s odd, inspired variations on Bach’s Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen (in which he makes the piano sound as much like an organ as any reasonable person could wish) and to a degree in the Preludes: listen to the final allegro appassionata in D, with the melody declaimed in wide leaps in dotted rhythm and punctuated with sudden furious scale runs, all over an agitated accompaniment. An astonishing piece and astonishingly well played.


Derek Parker

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