Music Prodigies / Rostropovich LSO Barbican, London
'From her opening pacing, with slightly exaggerated rubato, it was clear that she would be in control'
Monday 27 November 1995
Rostropovich came to the Barbican as conductor last week with two prodigies - the 13-year-old pianist, Helen Huang, and the 12-year-old cellist, Han- Na Chang - in a pair of concerts. Huang was born in Japan of Chinese parents; Chang (no relation to the violin prodigy, Sarah), is Korean. Both now live in the US and both study at the Julliard School - when time permits. And this is the point: both are already embarked on such high-profile careers. Huang has performed with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia, and Leipzig Gewandhaus; Chang with Sinopoli and the Dresden Staatskapelle, Dutoit and the Orchestre National de France, with Temirkanov and the Young Israel Philharmonic, and is now beginning a 12-concert tour in Israel. Given that both have signed exclusive recording contracts, by the ripe old age of 18, what more will there be to do? Prodigies are freaks. As Feuermann put it "probably common to all is that, as long as they are under the influence of teachers or their often profit-seeking parents, they are treated as machines".
So how do these "machines" play? Huang, dressed in black with a huge gold lame bow, came on stage aged 13 and played as a woman 10 years her senior might. In Beethoven's 1st Piano Concerto, her technique was impeccable, immaculate scales and arpeggios, extraordinary double octaves, clarity of articulation and sense of line. But she did not always realise that, occasionally, the soloist is accompanist, and at times, for someone so diminutive, her sound was remarkably harsh, as revealed in Beethoven's unlikely cadenza to the first movement. Rostropovich is not the ideal conductor, technically, for a very young artist, and where Huang could set her own pace - in the frisky last movement - the playing became more relaxed and characterful.
Han-Na Chang is younger by a year than Huang, but her performance of Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations already reveals a more developed musical personality. From her opening pacing of the theme, with slightly exaggerated rubato, it was clear that she would be in control, maturely looking to the leader for a musical response to her phrasing, while occasionally casting a nervous glance towards Rostropovich. Chang's musical intelligence made it very difficult to believe that a child was responding to Tchaikovsky's rapidly changing moods with so much understanding. The intensity she brought to the d-minor variation was quite extraordinary. Innocence was blasted by terror in Shostakovich's 10th symphony; icy precision was missing.
game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers
North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Lucy Hawking: Stephen Hawking's daughter writes impassioned open letter to Katie Hopkins about rights of disabled people
- 2 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 3 Russell Brand backs Ed Miliband: 'You gotta vote Labour'
- 4 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
- 5 Uploading pictures to find out how old you are gives Microsoft the right to post them wherever they want
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
In defence of liberal democracy
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils