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Reflections on a week with Stephen Hough

When Datin Irene Yeap invited me to conduct the Penang Philharmonic Orchestra in a concert featuring Stephen Hough, I was delighted at the prospect of being able to walk down memory lane in Malaysia with so many old friends and I was thrilled to hear of PPO’s collaboration with such a renowned soloist. I am always grateful for the opportunity to make music and without wanting to be too derivative or cliché; I set about building the program around Stephen, a man with many facets, beside music.

After some initial suggestions from Stephen’s management, I asked if he would be willing to play a Beethoven Piano Concerto. The third sprang to mind as it is one of the concertos with the least awkward transitions, the one in a key which is thoroughly Beethoven and most importantly, I had hoped Stephen would agree to play any Beethoven, as these works are deeply rooted in his repertoire. As such, both the Penang audience and musicians alike were treated to an interpretation, which was years in the making.

Stephen kindly agreed and with the Beethoven confirmed, I built the remainder of the program around interviews I watched of Stephen over the past year. I am not one to be star struck, but I was intrigued by the apparent genuine nature of this artist and his no frills approach. He seemed keen to grow and learn and adapt and I kept my fingers crossed that PPO would meet this same gentleman. Needless to say, he met and exceeded these expectations.

On learning of Stephen’s conversion to Catholicism, Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony immediately sprung to mind. Apparently as a young man converting, he feared a backlash from older family members, but thankfully this was not to be the case. Stephen’s conversion of course, was the reverse Reformation process, but it is testament to the maturity of Western Christian religions that many of suggestions of the reformation period were later adopted into the Catholic faith. It may have taken some four to five hundred years, but progress is progress.

Finally, I needed an overture which would not over power the two early romantic works. I had read that Stephen like myself, had studied at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and through support from Culture Ireland, I programmed Hamilton Harty's arrangement of Handel’s Water Music Suite. Harty, like yours truly, was a proud Irishman, but he was also music director of the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, an orchestra which I presume Stephen has worked with many times. As such, it seemed fitting that we play some music with an Irish-Mancunian connection. Stephen then offered us as an encore, a sublime rendering of Malaysian melodies, familiar to the Penang audience.

As Stephen sat at the piano warming up for the first rehearsal you could hear the subtleties he was able to bring out of the instrument. He practiced certain passages warming up his fingers and solidifying bit of the piece that he knew to be troublesome. Hearing a musician of his caliber rehearse passages which to the average listener sound remarkably clean and polished, is a stark reminder to us all that music is an ongoing art worthy of study. We need to keep practicing, no matter how dexterous we may become.

Often weeks come and go with little thought, but this was a week which in our case was over far too soon. I would have happily rehearsed the Mendelssohn for another week and bathed in the Beethoven sound every evening, but alas the concert beckons and rightly so. It is a chance for us to throw caution to the wind and express as artists, what is most dear to us. I will remember Stephen’s dedication to the rehearsal process throughout the week and the transformation made to the sound of the piano by those three humble slats of wood
underneath the instrument. As I told Stephen after the concert, I feel the Beethoven instinctively faster, but I thoroughly enjoyed living his reading of the concerto. It was convincing and never labored and when I next come back to the piece, I am sure I will have adjusted my reading based on what we heard and experienced together.

Most importantly, I will savor the thought of what it means to have such young musicians playing with such a musical giant. I hope they too saw that behind this remarkable pianist, is just a genuine chap focused on performing music and bringing his best to each and every moment. Without doubt, he is an accomplished artist with his pick of the world’s top-tier orchestras at his disposal, but he chose to work with Penang Philharmonic Orchestra, an orchestra full of passion and dedication, an orchestra and musical community on the rise.

Ciarán McAuley
3 September 2019
Helsinki, Finland

World famous pianist to perform at PPO concert

The Penang Philharmonic Orchestra’s upcoming concert – ‘Reformation’ symphony – is a Germanic programme spanning from the Baroque to the early Romantic period.

The programme will feature George Frideric Handel’s Water Music Suite, Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3 and Mendelssohn Symphony No. 5.

World-renowned pianist Stephen Hough will be performing.

His list of achievements spans from regular appearances with the world’s top-tier orchestras to being a Commander of the Order of the British Empire and the first classical music recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship.

Conductor Ciaran McAuley said that while the Beethoven and Mendelssohn pieces are well- known to music lovers, the Handel is more obscure.

“I am delighted to present this piece in arrangement with Irish composer Hamilton Harty.

“Whether you are a classical music novice, a PPO regular or an all-round music enthusiast, this concert will excite and risk all.

“PPO and Penang are now attracting musicians the likes of which are few and far between, and perhaps this ‘Reformation’ will be the catalyst for a new and exciting concert venue in the years to come, ” he said.

McAuley, who is the former resident conductor of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra said he hoped Hough, who is an award-winning poet, writer, painter and composer among many other things, would be coaxed back to Penang time and time again after this concert.

The concert will be held at Dewan Sri Pinang in George Town, on Saturday at 8pm.

Tickets are priced at RM80 (adult) and RM50 (student) and can be bought at Dewan Sri Pinang on the day of the concert, Bentley Music at Gurney Paragon.

Those interested can also call Ramesh (04-262 2462/ 012-485 4733) or go to admin@


Penang Philharmonic Orchestra: A growing force to be reckoned with

Penang is a brilliant city with a great heritage, a cosmopolitan population, wonderful food culture and an artistic community that is vibrant and diverse, so much so, that as an artist I imagine it’s hard at times to impress. That being said, brilliance visits such a place willingly and this month the Penang

Philharmonic Orchestra has a treat prepared for the city’s musical fans. PPO presents a program featuring the world renowned pianist Stephen Hough, whose list of musical accolades spans from regular appearances with the world’s top-tier orchestras, to being a Commander of the Order of the British Empire and the first classical music recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship. Stephen is also an award winning poet, writer, painter and composer and the sheer breath of his artistic activities has led the Economist magazine to name him one of only twenty living polymaths in the world. It will only be his pianistic ability on display this time, but perhaps he too will be coaxed back to Penang time and time again, as have I. Musicians often talk of the Three B’s: Bach, Beethoven and Brahms but for me, Penang is the Three D’s: Dumplings, Durian and Dhal.

On the musical bill is a Germanic program spanning from the baroque to the early romantic period, presenting Handel’s Water Music Suite, Beethoven Piano Concerto No.3 and Mendelssohn Symphony No.5, the ‘Reformation’ symphony. Whilst the Beethoven and Mendelssohn may be well known to music lovers, the Handel is somewhat more obscure and with the support of Culture Ireland, I am delighted to present this piece in arrangement by the Irish composer Hamilton Harty.

Whether you are a classical music novice, a PPO regular or an all-round music enthusiast, this concert makes no other promises than to excite and risk all. I have had the privilege of conducting many times in Malaysia and this is the first and only time I have written such an open letter to the city. PPO and Penang are now attracting musicians the likes of which are few and far between and perhaps this ‘reformation’ will be the catalyst for a new and exciting concert venue in the years to come. We look forward to welcoming you to the concert.

Ciarán McAuley (Guest Conductor)

Venue: Dewan Sri Pinang

Date: 24 August 2019

Time: 8pm

Farewell My Concubine - Review

I attended the Penang Philharmonic Orchestra's concert at Dewan Sri on 29th June, 2019, titled "Farewell my Concubine", under the direction of Maestro Dr. Pung Aik Khai.

The programme comprised Schumann's Symphony No. 1 in B flat major, op. 38, nicknamed "Spring", "Farewell my Concubine" by Chinese composer Guan Xia (born 1957), and "Spring Festival Overture" by Chinese composer Li Huanzhi

As I was completely unfamiliar with both Chinese works, I had the good fortune to meet Dr. Pung, over a lunch, wherein he enlightened me on his idea for the concert programme, and the two Chinese-composed works. His idea of seeking some form of balance in the programme by countering Schumann's "Spring Symphony" with Li Huanzhi's Spring Festival Overture was a good one, in spirit. It was a pleasure to have met him, listened to him, and observed his infectious enthusiasm.

Before delving into my review of the concert, I would like to mention that it is highly commendable that our PPO has the foresight, broadmindedness, and willingness to look into unusual, interesting, even quite difficult, pieces; lesser-known music, or music that have fallen off the standard repertoire for one reason or another, and embracing them into its on repertoire.

I would appreciate it if readers would bear in mind that any review is only the opinion of one person, namely, the reviewer. Whether my comment are complimentary or derogatory, it is, in the end, just an opinion. I just hope readers enjoy reading it.

The original inspiration for Schumann's "Spring' symphony was the closing line of a poem about spring by Adolf Bottger, a Leipzig contemporary. At first, Schumann gave a title to each of the movements in the work, viz. "Early Spring", "Evening", "Happy Playmates" and, finally, "Spring in Full Bloom"; but he abandoned that idea before publication. The associations of the titles the movements bore originally are not hard to detect in the music. The characters of the four movements follow the course mapped out in the programmatic sketch, and even the development from "Early Spring" to "Spring in Full Bloom" is expressed in musical terms insofar as the opening fanfare becomes the first subject of the allegro motto vivace, and thus the main musical idea for the first movement as a whole, and it returns transformed, in the finale, as a positively hymnal manifestation of spring. When I first received the information on the concert, I thought that the PPO was going to have problems with certain sections of the Schumann, but on the night, I realised that Dr. Pung must have worked them pretty hard, because they sounded good, balance, and cohesive, barring a few extraneous sounds, which are not important, because one should judge any performance on the sum of its parts; i.e. as a whole. Dr. Pung, without score, led them confidently through the work, and it was pleasurable. (I just wish Penang audiences would learn NOT to applaud between movements! It is infra dig, and really so Plebeian!!!)

I have been going regularly to the PPO's concerts since its inception. Basically, the orchestra members are all amateurs who love to make music. Some of them are music students who are waiting for places in music colleges or conservatories abroad. Despite a fairly high turnover of members because of this fact, over the years, the orchestra has evolved, form a slightly inadequate entity with a rather weak woodwind section, and strings at times sounding like a cat on heat, into a well-balanced, cohesive entity producing good music. This proves that the core members have worked hard over the years to bring this about, for which I would like to congratulate them.
Please keep up the good work.

Now, (for me), the tricky part. Both the Chinese compositions were an attempt to merge a western orchestra with traditional Chinese instruments, which at first glance would appear to be dichotomous, since western music is diatonic, and Chinese/Oriental music is pentatonic. However, the dichotomy would seem more apparent than real.

"Farewell my Concubine" is a love story based on the legendary general and warlord of the Chu Kingdom, Xiang Yu, and his beloved consort Yu. In memory of one of the most famous Peking Opera countertenors, Mei Lanfang, composer Guan Xia fused a famous "aria" (tonight sung by soprano Huang Ping) with a large symphonic orchestra, along with Chinese string instrument, the Jinghu, played by Jiang Hong; a Chinese bamboo flute, the Xiao, played by Win Tan Boon Choon; and a Chinese zither, the Fuzheng, played by Sarah Heng. The music alternates between Xiang Yu at battle, which was rousing and exciting; and him and his consort, which is beautifully lyrical, supported by the three instrumentalists. The aria, towards the end of the work, conveys the love of Yu and her trepidation in losing her lord. I enjoyed this unfamiliar (to me) work very much. It proved that Chinese traditional instruments can meld very well with a western orchestra and I applaud the soprano and the instrumentalists for their performances in this work, and Dr. Pung for introducing it to us.

Earlier, I mentioned that Dr. Pung's idea of balancing the concert programme with the two "Spring" compositions was a good idea "in spirit". This is because Li Huanzhi's Spring Festival Overture did not evoke any feelings of spring in my mind, nor emotions. Though the piece was well-performed, to me it felt more like just merry-making than spring. Perhaps thirty-two years spent in Europe has affected my feelings about spring which, incidentally, is my favourite season. Nevertheless, it was a thoroughly interesting and enjoyable evening. Thank you Dr. Pung! I hope you enjoyed it too.

As a footnote I would like to say that I wish the PPO would seriously consider banning children under 6 years of age from attending their normal
concerts. This can be printed clearly on the tickets. I know we want to encourage the people of Penang to learn to appreciate more classical music, but allowing children under 6 years old to attend a concert is NOT the way to go about it.

by Cantata 24

Farewell My Concubine - Review

Dear Maestro Aik Khai,

Words cannot describe how I felt at the end of your concert, the swell of emotions was so hard to contain! You had the audience on their feet !

One could read the elation in the faces of the musicians as they too know, they have performed well.


The Concert was very well executed , the program repertoire, cleverly woven together and to take a line from you, “with a cross of Eastern and Western Culture “ which I was initially skeptical of, but the magic was evident when renowned Beijing soloist, Huang Ping glided in singing in the Beijing Operatic style, accompanied by a full Western Orchestra of 82 musicians who did brilliantly to accompany the soloist. This cross culture combination in music could not be as different as night n day, but the resulting harmony was truly exquisite, it was breathtakingly beautiful.

Huang Ping had the crowd mesmerized with her singing . It was intriguing for many of us in the audience as most of us are not often exposed to this “new” fascinating genre.

Needless to say I was so proud of PPO musicians , they rose to a new level , to the occasion under your baton! The orchestra opened the concert with Schumann’s Spring Symphony with much aplomb. It was a tight solid performance but the second half of the program which many had waited with abated breath, was the draw for the evening.

I would also like to commend our own PPO conductor Choong Yen who did very well to prepare our musicians for the concert and despite a two man team , Ramesh did a wonderful job holding the fort together for the past weeks.

Congratulations to a superb performance which was thoroughly enjoyed by the packed auditorium which I believe was rare for Penang audience for a classical performance n PPO concerts, incidentally one of which was for your packed audience first major concert with PPO two years ago ! But the numerous feedback from audience was just so, so rewarding. Board member Mr Chia Loong Thye was approached by the reporter from a chinese daily after the performance , he apologized profusely for not doing enough to promote this concert through the various news media, but even without the much needed publicity the auditorium was packed!

You have brought PPO to a different level for which I am indeed very grateful and very excited!

This success was phenomenal. I could not be happier. Thank you very much.

PPO look forward to further collaboration with you in the near future.


Thank you
Irene Yeap

Farewell My Concubine - Review

Dear All,

May I add my heartiest congratulations to Maestro Pung for an evening to remember. It was a brave overture to bridge East with West using PPO as the intermediary. While it succeeded beyond our wildest dreams, witness the night's full house and the 3 encores, it takes guts, resources and guangxi to even begin to achieve what he did.

PPO outperformed, with renditions of both a western Spring Symphony by Schumann no less, and then a Chinese composition by the same name. Kudos to Choong Yen and team for all their hard work and preparations.



    The Penang Philharmonic Chamber Choir (formerly known as Voices of Penang Philharmonic) welcomes all choristers interested in challenging themselves with advanced and diverse repertoire to join us. With the change in name and direction, we no longer have an age criteria for members. Instead, our members will be limited to a maximum of 40 members. As a chamber choir, we are looking to perform high quality choral music suitable for our size. Members can also look forward to excellent choral training under the Artistic Directors Ms Lim Ai Hooi and Mr Yong Chee Foon, together with Assistant Conductor Ms Ong Geok Cheng.

PPO B.O.D Meeting with the New CM 

The Penang Philharmonic Orchestra recently paid a courtesy visit on Penang’s new Chief Minster YAB Chow Kon Yeow. The aim of the meeting was to discuss how PPO could expand its role as the State Orchestra in Penang’s new State Government.


The PPO was represented by its Chairperson Datin Seri Irene Yeap, Honorary Secretary Agnes James, Honorary Treasurer Chia Loong Thye, Board Members Dato Danny Goon and Lee Fee Khoon. Also in attendance were Resident Conductor Ng Choong Yen and Administrator Ramesh Sharma.


The State orchestra was established in 2008 where dedicated music students combine to perform challenging repertoire. The overall aim of the orchestra is to develop young people through music and to help them achieve their potential musically and personally. 


YAB Chow was pleased with the progress made by PPO over the years. He encouraged the board to work at making the orchestra something that the State continues to be proud of.  He patiently listened to some of the concerns and challenges faced by PPO and promised to work with the Board in helping to overcome them.

Concert review of GTF Yaron Kohlberg & Ciaran McAuley 10th August 2018


The Penang Philharmonic Orchestra presented two concerts with the same programme on August 10th and 11th, 2018, under the auspices of the George Town Festival. I attended the concert on the 10th. The programme proffered Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54, with Yaron Kohlberg at the piano and Ciaran McAuley conducting; and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64.

A concerto is a classical work composed for a solo instrument and orchestra. The two sides of the divide should not be vying with each other for supremacy, but instead they should achieve a good rapport, a "conversation", and interplay; and a well-written concerto balances the rapport between the two sides. The soloist asks the question and is answered by the Orchestra, and vice versa. Schumann's piano concerto is a pretty good example of this interconnection and interplay.

Mr. Kohlberg exudes a quiet confidence in his technical ability which I'm sure surpasses the technical demands of this concerto. (I would love to hear him play Chopin!). I applaud his self-restraint in not showing off just his technique; but instead gave us something much, much more in his purposeful
balance of the various elements in a romantic composition, viz. technical ability, musical insight, lyricism, and romanticism, in his execution of the work. This was truly something to savour! There was nothing that was overdone; up to, and including, his liberties with tempi (as is usual in the interpretation of works from the romantic period). Every element was beautifully under control.

He was perfectly balanced by the orchestra under the baton of Mr. McAuley. I have not heard the orchestra play better than this evening; for which Mr. McAuley is to be congratulated. Mr. Kohlberg and Mr. McAuley must have been of the same mind regarding the musical insight of the concerto, because on the
whole, their performances were complementary and cohesive.

After the first twenty bars, I realized we were in for a treat, so I simply sat back and enjoyed Mr. Kohlberg's stunningly brilliant performance.

He initiated a break between the first and second movement, in order to say something about the Concerto, to familiarize the audience with the work. This was rather unusual, but not out of place because here in Penang , and in Malaysia on the whole, we try to encourage people to learn to like and know
classical music (which originated in the west). So every little bit helps. I hope the audience appreciated the educational interruption. There's still a long way for us to go.

Tchaikovsky's last three symphonies have been performed more often than his first three. Number 6, also known as the "Pathetique", is the most popular. Number 5 is musically the best-balanced, but number 4 is my personal favorite.

Symphony number 5 is full of good melodies, starting with the rather doleful theme of the introductory Andante. This theme recurs throughout the symphony; twice in the second movement, again at the end of the third, and finally triumphantly crowning the end of the symphony. Emotionally, the symphony goes from initial despair to final elation.

The second movement's horn solo could be regarded as rather haunting.The PPO's woodwind section sounded good here. The scherzo is a lilting, graceful waltz, offering light relief from the first two movements. The introduction of the fourth movement reverts back to the motto-theme in the tonic major, the developing allegro is in the minor, and eventually reaches a blazing conclusion in the major.

Mr. McAuley guided the PPO through the more difficult passages of the symphony quite ably and the orchestra rose to the challenge, giving us an enjoyable, well-rounded performance.

It was altogether a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

by Cantata24

Concert Mistress Ms. Judy Oh DJN Award 


Penang Philharmonic BOD is delighted to announce that our concert mistress Ms. Judy Oh has been awarded a DJN (Darjah Johan Negeri) for her dedicated/selfless contributions (3 decades) to music in Penang, Our proud congratulations to Ms Oh

Piano Recital By Elaine Yap 23rd June 2018 - Review

On Saturday, 23rd June, 2018, I attended a piano recital, presented under the aegis of the Penang Philharmonic Orchestra, by Ms. Elaine Yap Sin Yee, a young Malaysian pianist, at the Star Building.

Ms. Yap’s programme of four works was well-mixed and well-balanced; spanning more than 200 years of music from the Baroque to the early 20th century. On offer was Scarlatti to start, and Scriabin to end; with Beethoven and Schumann sandwiched in between.

She opened her recital with two sonatas from Scarlatti, viz. K.9 and K.141. She played them with precision and delicacy and I was glad she didn’t give in to the temptation (which too many lesser performers tend to do, unfortunately) to vary the tempo, but instead played the pieces in a strict, unvarying tempo, as Baroque music should be played.

The Beethoven sonata op. 109, was composed after his op. 106, the “Hammerklavier”, arguably his greatest work for the keyboard. After the violence, dissonance, and technical demands of  op. 106, op. 109 could be considered a lyrical relief, though no less demanding musically. Ms. Yap dealt easily with the dreamy lyricism of the first movement, which also showed Beethoven’s late tendency towards dissonance, and she demonstrated much confidence in playing the arpeggiated triads and the repeated notes of the second movement. As I listened to her playing of the third movement variations, I kept being reminded of the composer’s late string quartets.

Schumann’s Fantasie in C was dedicated to Franz Liszt. Considering its technical difficulties, Ms. Yap’s interpretation of the work was both capable and heartfelt, yet she managed to make it seem easy. She seemed able to delve into the deeper meaning of the music, considering her youthfulness.

I have never been able to get my teeth into Scriabin’s music, but that’s probably due to my own failing rather than the composer’s. Or is it? I find Scriabin’s works mostly discordant and rather disjointed. I like music to flow and segue into the next section or subject; not cut off abruptly, to be followed by a disjointed subject. His sonata number 5 is technically his most demanding work. I’m glad that, starting with this sonata, he kept his later sonatas short; about 10 to 12 minutes in length. Although Ms. Yap gave us a very good execution of this short but very demanding work, I thought it was not a good idea to end any recital with a work by Scriabin, because it leaves the audience in a bit of a state of shock, unable to recall any of the disjointed passages, and a tad dissatisfied. I would have been happy with a good rendition of Prokofiev’s toccata.

Ms. Yap obviously has a very sound technique and loads of musical capabilities with profundity, considering the pieces she chose for this recital. I got the impression that she gave more attention to the depth of the music rather than just the notes. I hope she will go far in her career. It’s such a shame the hall was only half-full.


Piano Recital By Elaine Yap 23rd June 2018 

On Saturday 23rd June 2018 went to a recital which took place at the Star building in Georgetown, Penang. It was an amazing evening, for a number of reasons. But the most important is that a young, and talented pianist Elaine Yap Sin Yee, hailing from Malaysia, under the aegis of the Penang Philarmonic @ The Star, presented a very interesting programme, starting with Scarlatti's Piano Sonata in D minor K9, followed by the Piano Sonata in D minor K141. For a very long time had not listened to this composer, and was favourably impressed by its joyous and flowing movement. This was followed by Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata no.30 in E major Op. 109. Then R.Schumann's Fantaisie in C major op 17. The piece is extremely demanding and a pleasure to listen to, and the way Miss Yap performed said piece was excellent. The last piece, by A. Scriabin (a composer whose works are not played very often, unfortunately) the Piano Sonata no. 5 Op.53 was beyond words in complexity and has an amazing flow between soft and highly energetic parts. Ms Yap was totally immersed in her music, the concentration and the physical "work" resulted in highly intense musical moments, so pleasurable that one was mesmerised! The programme itself from Scarlatti to Scriabin is a well laid out panorama of 4 generations of composers who follow each other chronologically, thus giving the audience a very interesting sampling of the different periods and sounds. Had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Yap after the recital, and told her how impressed I was. My only advice would be for her to say something about the pieces she is about to play, why she chose said piece, its intricacies, etc. It also links the public with a more intimate part of the musician and makes for an even greater connection. Wishing Ms. Yap success and hope to hear her again in Penang.

-Adrian Kessler 

Vincent Ong Piano Recital - PPO@Star, 26 May 2018

"It was a dark and rather stormy night that Saturday, 26 May 2018. The foul weather did not deter the faithful. They were all present at the PPO Auditorium, Pitt Street; mums, dads, peers, fellow music-lovers and assorted well-wishers; to celebrate a piano recital by Vincent Ong, all of 17, who was about to stretch the PPO's Steinway D to its limits. 

Beethoven's Piano Sonata No.28 in A major, Op. 101 opened the proceedings. The 4 movements separating  their several elements were lovingly detailed with innate sensitivity in the early and middle movements, and then dealt with swift determination at the end.

Bartok's Out of Doors, Sz. 81 was the next offering. The pianist brought the audience into the different zones intended by the composer, with each movement evoking the different scenes which were quite intriguing. We heard the Drums and Pipes and the Barcarolla and the Musettes and then, into the 4th movement, the Night's Music, where the various sound effects imitating the noises of insects at night created a nocturnal atmosphere. Bartok's affinity for folk music with its rustic melodies and syncopated rhythms were in full display. 


Vincent Ong closed the proceedings with Chopin's 4 Ballades, to great applause and a demand for more. The audience were rewarded by not one but 3 encore pieces :


  Traumerei by Schumann,


   La Campanella by Liszt, and 


   Etude Op. 25 No. 2 by Chopin. 


Vincent transferred to the audience his feeling, of being moved by the hint of sadness hiding behind the childlike innocence and gentle demeanour of Traumerei. He likened it to being like a child lost in thought, yet free and enjoying the dreams engendered, while knowing full well that reality trumps at the end. 


Reality did too, bringing the audience to the stark realisation  that the recital was over. 


Taking in a well-deserved standing ovation, Vincent Ong stood tall amidst the pandemonium that erupted. It was a singular signal that we have just witnessed the coming of age of a young Penangite who confessed that piano lessons were always enjoyed with delight right from the initial go. It is a journey like no other as he seeks to climb a few mountains to see if a professional musician's career looms on the other side. It is a challenge he truly deserves to face. " 


Danny Goon.

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