Chiyan Wong - Liszt Transfigured - American Record Guide

Liszt’s fantasies based on operatic themes seem to be all the rage these days. They are highly creative, extremely virtuosic, and most enjoyable to listen to. They venture far beyond mere transcriptions.

Hong Kong born Wong, now living in England has been the recipient of numerous awards and has been active on the European musical scene for the past decade. He has chosen four of these monsters and has edited them in Horowitz-like fashion to reflect his own thoughts and ideas. These are for macho fingers, in macho style, but follow the orgiastic spirit of the originals to increase the virtuosic content.

The shortest fantasy (12 minutes) is Grande fantasie sur des themes de l’opera Niobe de Pacini—Divertissement sur le cavatine I tuoi frequent palpate, S. 419. Quite a mouthful, and quite an earful as well. I don’t think everyone will be humming Pacini’s themes after hearing this, but it is certainly enjoyable enough—and impressively over-the-top, as it should be. I loved every juicy second.

In the Halevy fantasy (themes from La Juive) Wong is again at his octopus-like best as fistfuls of notes go flying in every direction. It’s all very exciting, and this pianist knows just what to do to avoid anything sounding like empty rhetoric. It is all performed most seriously, but with enough bravura and flair to bring down the house.

The two Mozart based pieces are better known, especially the Don Giovanni Fantasy. Wong uses the Busoni edition as his point of departure. The Fantasy on themes from Figaro and Don Giovanni is a potpourri of joyful elation.

The pianist’s own notes give us increased understanding, though they do not reveal the many text changes. The piano is a Steinway D, beautifully recorded at the Wyastone Concert Hall in England. Do not miss this one.

American Record Guide
01 July 2017