Chopin's 24 Preludes after the interval went with more confidence. There was a strong sense of their sweeping continuity as a group, which is how Chopin planned them. There wasn't much conventional salon-playing here, and Chopin himself would never have played so loudly (his listeners sometimes complained they could hardly hear him). Yet there's power in the music, and the slow E minor piece didn't suffer by being delivered strongly, for it was sensitively shaped. "Raindrop" seemed an even sillier nickname for the D flat Prelude than usual, but it was still expressive, and the accented bass notes which punctuate the receding moments of the A flat Prelude at regular intervals, though they may be played quietly by most pianists, sounded more effective as half-muted explosions, like distant guns. At the end of the solemn C minor Prelude, Fou Ts'ong brought out the alto and allowed the top part to shadow it like descant - a lovely and unusual touch which also has thematic justification. He then had the sensitivity to pause before the next Prelude, respecting its change of mood.
Not everything was so good - the fluttering C sharp minor Prelude was certainly not leggiero ("light") as marked, and the furious G sharp minor Prelude was rough and over-pedalled; but the playing was big, unaffected and carried authority.
The very best thing of the evening, though, was Mozart's Rondo in A minor. Taken at a fluent pace and not squeezed for pathos, it was both delicate and touching. And, at the end of an evening without many real pianissimi, it was balm to the ears.
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