Franck’s Piano Quintet

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by Hidir Koh

The composer, Franck, was a person who relentlessly followed his passions; it seemed to be his motto in life. Born in Belgium, his parents migrated the family to France in hopes that he could audition for a place at the esteemed Paris Conservatoire, and eventually become a great piano virtuoso. At the peak of his success though, to the great disdain of his parents, Franck disobeyed their wishes and eloped with his then wife-to-be Félicité. Long story short, his rebellious spirit obviously carried over to his compositions as it was evident from the line up that night that his passions pulled through.

The first piece was performed by Yao Xiao Yun (pianist), Chen Da Wei (Violinist) and Yu Jing (Cellist), and it took off on a melancholic note. The rise and falls of ephemeral notes quickly took center stage, captivating the audience in a trance. Every note was lusciously played, and I liked how the tremolo of the strings matched the quiver of their eyebrows, which were knitted together in a look of longing. Although each individual instrument was beautifully played, I could not help but feel a lack of chemistry amongst the performers during their performance of Piano Trio No. 1 in C minor, Op.8. However, they quickly recovered during their encore performance, where they performed Allegro by Antonio Vivaldi and exceeded all expectations.

As for the second performance, it was immaculate. The performers all moved in synchronized harmony and there was a clear leading voice throughout the performance which was reminiscent of the composition’s time. I was slightly taken aback by the use of small towels to avoid contact with the chin rest of the viola as well as the back of the Cello. But after reading the program booklet, I understood why. The Cello that Pei-Sian uses dates back to 1764! It has withstood the test of time and perhaps the towels are just an inkling to the level of conscientiousness and effort put into his performances.

All in all, a therapeutic way to spend a Sunday.

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