XXI XXI-CD2 1682
The late Arthur Fiedler once said: “there are only two kinds of music: The good and the boring kind.” Well, Saint Saëns may not be the greatest composer or even one of the greatest, but he certainly never wrote boring music. And he couldn’t have picked a better performer of his piano music than the young, immensely talented Montreal-born virtuoso, Lucille Chung. Since 1989, when only 10 years old, she has built an impressive career with the world’s leading orchestras and performed in over 30 countries. Her playing has self assured attack, virtuosity, romantic abandon and a sense of youthful exuberance, but there is still room for more subtlety.
She hasn’t recorded much as yet and this unorthodox disc proves that she is not afraid of taking chances. My first approach was sceptical. What would the 2nd Piano Concerto sound like on solo piano? One of the most impressive openings in the piano concerto literature is the impassioned solo cadenza that develops into a breathtaking crescendo leading up to the ff entry of the orchestra, a big moment indeed, which cannot be duplicated by piano solo, but this problem notwithstanding the 1st movement takes shape almost like the original. As she proceeds, the Mendelssohnian scherzo is fluttering like a butterfly over a field of flowers and the rumba-like middle section seductively swings with no effort at all. She has the time of her life, totally relaxed and happy.
The works that follow, except for the ubiquitous Bacchanale, are mostly piano/orchestra pieces transcribed for piano solo by the composer, who was a tremendous pianist in his own right. An interesting curiosity is Africa with its exotic and oriental atmosphere, ending with the Tunisian national anthem carried off triumphantly by our pianist.