Pianist See displays well-rounded flair

Review Concert

SOUND & FANTASY

See Ning Hui Piano Recital

Esplanade Recital Studio

Tuesday

Young musicians in Singapore these days have the option of pursuing advanced musical studies here or at traditional and much-revered institutions in the United Kingdom and the United States, or sometimes both.

Nineteen-year-old pianist See Ning Hui, who was awarded top place at the first Singapore Steinway Piano Competition in 2012, is a student at London's Royal College of Music and she continues to win prizes.

Her piano recital demonstrated how she has progressed and matured over the years. No longer content to display flashy showpieces, the repertoire she offered was well chosen and reflected an all-rounded musical personality.

Opening with J. S. Bach's Toccata In D Major (BWV. 912), there was both clarity and fluidity in a somewhat romanticised account that revealed more colours on a Steinway grand piano than one would expect.

The fugal gig-like dance that closed the piece was touched with lightness and pure joy.

Various shades and moods followed in Beethoven's Sonata In E Flat Major (Op. 81a), also known as Les Adieux, reflecting the highs and lows which accompanied his patron Archduke Rudolf's departure and return.

There was excitement in the first movement's farewell and desolation in the slow movement's portrayal of absence, which See brought out particularly well.

The shift from minor to major modes at the point of return, reflecting the composer's exhilaration, was another pivotal moment.

After the interval, two Scarlatti sonatas, both in D minor, provided many points of contrasts.

Here, small was beautiful as these little gems were windows into See's refined touch.

The first was contemplative and probing, while the second was a fast number caught up in a dizzying mercurial sweep.

These were mere preludes to the recital's big piece, Schumann's Fantasy In C Major (Op. 17).

Belying See's petite physical stature was a voluminous sound, which carried through the work's three movements.

While she can continue to grow with this timeless masterpiece, there was much to marvel at her grasp of the music's architecture and form, and how she paced herself overall.

The wide chords and leaping octaves of the treacherous middle movement were negotiated without too much fuss, leading to the long- breathed finale's transcendence to a higher plane of existence.

Unfortunately, these revelations were lost to some cipher in the small audience, whose moronic ringtone from an unsilenced mobile phone contributed a most jarring intrusion.

The Schumann ended in quiet heavenly bliss, and See gave two substantial encores which offered more tantalising glimpses into her widening repertoire.

Ravel's impressions of dancing fountains in Jeux D'eau was a impressive mix of delicate sprinkles and gushing spouts, and the piece de resistance that was Chopin's Winter Wind Etude was enough to blow all doubters away.

See, the conquering heroine comes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2015, with the headline 'Pianist See displays well-rounded flair'. Print Edition | Subscribe