Spine-tingling pianistic mayhem

The young Hong Kong-born pianist Wong Chiyan is a fast-rising name in the over-populated circus of 20somethings vying to be the piano world's "next big thing". His route is not by winning international piano competitions, which are frankly a dime a dozen now, but by the scholarship and specialisation of certain composers. In his case, Franz Liszt and Ferruccio Busoni have been targets of interest.

Busoni's Second Sonatina was a wholly original work... dispatched with fearless aplomb and uncompromising authority.

The concert closed with the Singaporean premiere of the Busoni- Wong edition of Liszt's Reminiscences De Don Juan... What could one expect from this quadruple transcription (Mozart-Liszt-Busoni- Wong) other than total pianistic mayhem?

Wong's no-holds-barred approach was totally appropriate, rendering the dead Commendatore's stentorian curse a truly malevolent edge that was jaw-dropping and spine-tingling. In quick succession came the duet La Ci Darem La Mano and ensuing variations, raising the temperature to a hellish fever pitch... the final outcome brought down the house.

This is how legends are made.


Chang Tou Liang, The Straits Times (Singapore)

Standing in... was the young UK based pianist Chiyan Wong whose utterly breathtaking performance was a revelation. [He] displayed finger work and glissandi with the sort of prestidigitation that conjured magical effects on the piano this reviewer had never heard produced before... Ravishing delicacy of touch and tone in the lyrical passages and tremendous percussive forces in the cadenzas that made the piano at times a frightening instrument, inevitably brought [Horowitz] to mind... Those present at this performance will run, I imagine, not walk to secure their tickets for his future recitals.

John Gilroy, Cambridge News (United Kingdom)

Beyond the dazzling technical finish he brings to these fiendishly challenging pieces, most striking is Wong's sincerity of purpose... Wong presents this as yet another unfamiliar corner of the repertory with musicality bolstered by understanding and conviction. I suspect that, even for those who are not hard-boiled Lisztians, there will be a great deal of interest here.

Patrick Rucker, The Gramophone (United Kingdom)

Wong skilfully balances fire, flair and levity, and has a knack for nudging the melodies gently round their corners. In the Lisztian spirit, he even adds a few ideas of his own. The Grande Fantaisie on Pacini’s opera Niobe starts playfully then melts into a slow section of ethereal, held-breath delicacy.

Erica Jeal, The Guardian (United Kingdom)

If Mendelssohn was a portrait of politeness, Sergei Prokofiev struck like a serpent baring fangs in his iconoclastic Second Piano Concerto in G minor. This has become the signature piece of young piano virtuosos willing to hyperflex their muscles and raise the roof.

Even among overwrought perofrmances which are a norm, Hong Kong-born Chiyan Wong's account stood out for being vastly different and often revisionist.

How he stressed and stretched the opening movement's slow tempos, peppering it with ear-catching accents at unexpected places and dragging out the massive cadenza to almost eternity, was certain to perk one up.

His quickfired reflexes in the machine-gun like Scherzo - concluded within all of two minutes - was almost a given.

The rambunctious Intermezzo and tempestuous Finale gave him much opportunity to redefine the meaning of the word grotesque

One suspects the enfant terrible in Prokofiev would not have minded at all. With excellent accounts on disc by youngsters Yuja Wang, Kirill Gerstein and Beatrice Rana available for reference, Wong is very much his own man with many valid things to say.

His encore, Liszt's late and bleak Nuages Gris (Grey Clouds) - also in G minor - and the very antithesis of the concerto, was also proof of unique thought processes at work.

Chang Tou Liang, The Straits Times (Singapore)
British pianist, Stephen Hough
Chiyan Wong is an exciting, original and thoughtful pianist. Nothing sounds 'bought in'; everything sounds freshly but not self-consciously conceived.
Stephen Hough
"Chiyan Wong has a sincerity as a person which he applies to his music-making, and that is very rare these days. I am sure he will continue to grow as a real artist."
Kun-Woo Paik
Saturday evening introduced 24-year-old Chiyan Wong, a rising star from Hong Kong based in London. In Schumann’s rhapsodic Kreisleriana, he brought out the elements of fantasy with a keen mastery of its myriad dynamics and shades…

Liszt’s By The Lake of Wallenstadt and his transcription of Hans von Bulow’s Dante Sonnet revealed Wong’s sublime way with legato and inner voices. Fingers and fists of fury livened up the Dante Sonata and a much-truncated version of the chop-socky Hexameron Variations, based on a march from Bellini’s opera I Puritani.

In the latter, a number of variations were dropped while Wong added several of his own to spectacular effect. Vulgar music, no doubt, but played with polish and finesse.
Chang Tou Liang, The Straits Times (Singapore)
Chiyan Wong (15) from Hong Kong possessed remarkable sophistication in his piano playing.
Christo Lelie, Trouw (The Netherlands)
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