Singapore-born Melvyn Tan came to Melbourne this October for a one-night show as part of the international Melbourne Festival lineup. Sitting back from the piano and hunching carefully over the keys, Tan dove into the beautifully delicate and vibrant ‘Sonata No. 30 Op. 109’. The Melbourne Recital Centre is a grand place to sit and listen to the likes of one of Beethoven’s most loved pieces.
The evening marked the international premier of Jonathan Dove’s ‘Catching Fire’, which he composed for Tan’s recent 60th birthday. Dove and Tan are long-term friends and musical collaborators — thirty years earlier, Dove composed a piece of music to commemorate Tan’s 30th birthday. The new composition explores the essence of fire in all of its different forms, gently licking the air and bursting into flames. Tan described the composition as a ‘violent… but also a fun piece’, which also gives reference to his own Baroque days and his love of jazz. A young page-turner came to the stage to assist Tan during the fast-paced and definitely fiery performance.
Tan is evidently a terrifically skilled pianist, although I can’t say that I felt particularly moved by this performance. His gestures were graceful and buoyant, but his interpretation of Chopin’s Preludes (my all-time favourite classical compositions) left me feeling slightly agitated and uncomfortable. The man in front of me, however, began snoring during ‘Prelude no. 7’ — which just goes to show how differently the audience’s experiences can be.
Of course, there is always something lovely about going to see skilled pianists perform classical music at beautiful venues, and everyone was definitely in awe at his vivacious playing and his oh-so-fast hands, which moved at exceedingly high speeds!
Tan clearly revelled in his role as performer and pianist, and it was really satisfying taking part in his delight as the audience applauded him. He ended the evening with an encore of Chopin’s ‘Fantasie Impromptu, Op. 66’.
Lisa Martin is currently wound up in the windmills of life, and spends her downtime reading, writing and singing.