Rochdale Music Society Concert: Pei Jee Ng & Chiao-Ying Chang
Saturday 11 February 2012 at Heywood Civic Centre.
A delightful performance of Beethoven’s delicious set of variations on the aria ‘Bei Mannern, welche Liebe Fuhlen’ from Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute, got this varied programme off to a heart-warming start on a very cold evening, and sent out the message that the members of the audience were in for a treat. They were not to be disappointed. Australian cellist Pei Jee Ng and Taiwanese pianist Chiao-Ying Chang proved more than capable of filling the hall with stylish sounds to be enjoyed live and remembered with enjoyment.
The wit, elegance and poise of Beethoven’s approach in manipulating Mozart’s tune were obviously central to their interpretation of this music. Beethoven cannot often be accused of being light-hearted! But here he is decidedly enjoying himself with playful moments showing his appreciation of Mozart’s genius. The performance actually seemed to take the audience by surprise, for the applause suggested unexpected pleasure.
Samuel Barber’s Cello Sonata is an introvert work with much powerful melodic material for the cultured voice of a cello to sing, as well as elegant and aggressive maneuvers to execute. Pei Jee Ng found this voice and convinced us that the song was beautiful, strong and enduring. He was encouraged here, as throughout the concert, by the sensitivity and accomplishment of his collaborator at the piano, Chiao-Ying Chang.
The same can be said of Alfredo Ginastera’s Pampeana No.2 which began the second half of this exploration of the repertory from three continents. A cadenza-like evocation of the sights and sounds of his native Argentine pampas lands, this cadenza-like music held the audience into its spell and brought an enthusiastic response at its climax.
After music with Austro-German, American and Argentine - the latter admittedly born out of the Spanish and Italian origins of Ginastera’s parents - accents, the concert ended with a fine account of the unmistakably personal César Franck Cello Sonata in A, adapted from his Violin Sonata in the same key.
Franck was born in what is now Belgium - but was then under the control of the Netherlands - and lived and worked for the most part in Paris. Whether this hybrid background explains his particular genius or not, his music certainly almost always sounds like some other and no other composer’s at the same time! Like Bruckner’s, it has elements of melodic and harmonic simplicity and sophistication so fused together by the intense, creative fire of the composer’s personality that an audience might well be left wondering whether they should be embarrassed or not by their instinctively positive response to such entrancing music. I for one think not. And so did everyone who was privileged to be present in the Heywood Civic Centre on this occasion.
Rochdale Music Society’s next concert will be on Saturday 24 March at 7.30pm in the Heywood Civic Centre, when two musicians of international acclaim will combine to bring more fine music to the Borough of Rochdale: Leland Chen (violin) and John Lenehan (piano) will be playing works by Schubert, Debussy, Wieniawski and Gluck as well as more of the César Franck.