[REVIEW] A sparkling tour de force

By JANET DUNN, 24 July 2013 - ©Marlborough Midweek

Pianist Jason Bae took Blenheim by storm when he ended a gruelling 11- recital, two programme New Zealand tour in Marlborough.

Despite the cold (at one point Bae said he could not feel his hands), this highly disciplined 21-year-old artist provided the audience with a performance on July 12 that shimmered and sparkled.

The opening Beethoven sonata was controlled and cleanly enunciated with the fugue-like passages and Beethoven’s light touches of humour intelligently handled. The strict tempo provided a forward rhythmic drive, suited to the baroque- like character of this work.

Young pianist Jason Bae signs the Marlborough Music Society’s Steinway grand piano, watched by society members Malcolm Tomes, back left, and Alistair Elliott.

Young pianist Jason Bae signs the Marlborough Music Society’s Steinway grand piano, watched by society members Malcolm Tomes, back left, and Alistair Elliott.

After a low, respectful bow, Bae quickly resumed his seat and with a quick flex of the fingers he was off again with the Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit.

Part dream, part nightmare, this three-piece suite describes images of a lake-dwelling mermaid, a hanged corpse in a sunset, and a whirling Goblin-like figure that appears in the dead of the night. It is widely regarded as the most challenging and virtuosic music in the instrument’s repertoire and requires absolute concentration from the opening ppp shimmer to the final whiffs of the Goblin as he suddenly disappears in a final arpeggio run in the treble.

Bae met the virtuosic challenge with beautifully controlled articulation in all its varieties, but I missed feeling the shivers of horror and nightmarish intensity in the second and third musical poems.

As with the Beethoven, the Chopin Mazurkas were carefully controlled though possibly a little homogenous. Then came the Rachmaninov in a rendition characterised by warmth, energy and sensitivity of voicing that brought out the best in both instrument and artist.

Bae said it gave him goosebumps to think that Rachmaninov himself had also played on this Steinway. 

To a standing ovation, Bae responded generously with two Chopin Prelude encores. These displayed real warmth from a more relaxed Bae, no doubt looking forward to a well-earned break before heading to London to do a Master of Arts at the Royal Academy of Music.