Display of energy, wit

Pianist Joseph Moog made an impressive debut in Singapore



Victoria Concert Hall


German pianist Joseph Moog makes several Asian debuts this year in Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong.

In this powerful and impressive opening concert at this year's Singapore International Piano Festival, he affirmed his Young Artist of the Year 2015 win from Gramophone magazine and his Grammy nomination last year.

The theme for this year's piano festival is Fantasies And Memories. Fittingly the concert began with one of Haydn's most well-played fantasies, Fantasy In C Major, Hob. XVII:4.

This is a work the composer described as a capriccio (a lively, capricious work) and one that was "not particularly difficult".

Moog certainly had no technical issues with it, even at the very brisk tempo he chose.

He played with abundant energy and wit, generating a strong, rounded tone.

His performance of Chopin's Sonata No. 2 Op. 35 was equally impressive and not just for its technical brilliance.

Thoughtful phrasing and well- judged pacing highlighted the contrast between the galloping first theme and the lyrical second subject.

This worked well again with the dirge and the contrasting melody in the third movement, Funeral March.

The Steinway grand piano at the Victoria Concert Hall was in very fine tune, allowing Moog to draw out a profoundly rich and deep tone that was perfect for this sombre movement.

The tricky second movement scherzo and diabolically fast finale were handled tunefully, without fuss.

Moog's lack of mannerism or self-indulgence throughout the sonata was most welcome. Still, at times, one sensed that the pianist's relationship with the work was one based on deep respect, rather than great affection.

The second half of the concert opened with Book 1 of Debussy's 12 Etudes For Piano.

Each of the six etudes focuses on a particular pianistic technique, but Debussy never allows the technical intent of any etude to limit his musical ideas or originality.

Moog was dazzling in his control and precision, showing off greater levels of virtuosity with each etude. Ironically, his touch and accuracy were almost too clean and one misses the blurred, gossamer brushes on the keyboard that Debussy piano music sometimes calls for.

The evening closed with Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12. The fact that Moog performed his own arrangement of the work seemed to inject a sense of boldness and liberation into his performance.

The gypsy themes, bold tempo changes and gradual build-up of intensity all felt completely natural and unforced.

It was clear that this young pianist was fully relishing the moment, which made it a fitting ending for a very strong Singapore debut.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2017, with the headline 'Display of energy, wit'. Print Edition | Subscribe