Musical Game of Twister Impresses

Christchurch Mail 23.11.2017 - Jun and Tony Duo Review

Christchurch Mail
Tony Chen Lin and Jun Bouterey-Ishido (piano)

Review: Patrick Shepherd
Chamber Gallery, Rangiora.
15 November, 2017

Both these exceptional young pianists are making names for themselves performing in Europe and studying with some of the best teachers. Their combined CVs are formidable and both Tony Chen Lin and Jun Bouterey-Ishido are pursuing careers that already feature awards and acclaim that promise so much. That the pair show dazzling technical confidence and ability is a given for all the works they performed but what was really exciting was the conceptualisation of the programme and the deep thinking behind it.

Playing four hands at the piano (piano duets, if you like) is not something that one hears often although, having said that, in recent years there have been a number of concerts where this genre has been explored. It takes a certain kind of connectivity between the performers, a degree of anticipation and musical thought that has to be totally in step otherwise it becomes merely an interesting exercise. Chen and Bouterey-Ishido had this, seemingly thinking as one and working together very convincingly.

For me this concert was always going to be about Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps, one of the major orchestral scores of our time (if not the defining one) but I have never heard it live in this format for four hands. It was raw, pagan and vibrant, pulsating with nervous energy throughout. The trills were tight and menacing and the heavy chords and cross-rhythms were utterly uncompromising. It says a lot for a score written over 100 years ago that it still has the power to surprise and that presented in this form could be so potent. Both players left everything out there in a performance which deserves numerous repeats.

Schubert’s massive Sonata in C Major “Grand Duo” may not, on the surface, seem as daunting as Le Sacre but it is a very demanding work, requiring focus and stamina throughout. It is a broad and dramatic work, something quite apart from much of that composer’s oeuvre. In attempting to fill the big canvas I sometimes felt that the duo’s attack was on the harsh side, especially given the intimate surroundings of the Gallery, but I did enjoy the dark clouds rolling in in the Andante and the joyous recap in the scherzo. The Finale is a challenge in itself and I applaud Chen and Bouterey-Ishido on their ability to sustain the robustness of their playing to the very last chord.

Kurtág’s Játékok, with interspersed transcriptions of Bach, opened both halves. The tiny soundscapes, juxtaposed with the more linear, analytical Bach, made for an interesting listen. For me the second set had more shape, starting with an angry and humorous musical argument and ending with the peaceful Sonatina. With the performers often engaged in a musical version of Twister, the spectacle was as much visual as it was aural.

A memorable performance from two exceptionally talented pianists.