Melvyn Tan has covered pretty well the whole history of keyboard music in his career. He has been particularly associated with period instruments, although recently he has favoured the modern concert grand. He plunged into the Prelude of Bach's A minor English Suite so breezily that he seemed to protest that there was nothing too preciously historical in his approach. The Allemande was more sensitively played, and Tan seemed in better command when playing quietly, here and in the Sarabande, than in the vigorous Courante, Bourrée and Gigue, all of which tended to suffer from pressure of the wrong sort. Perhaps this was due to nerves.
He settled down in Schumann's Papillons, though Schumann hardly allows the player to settle at all because, as the title suggests, it is a collection of ideas caught on the wing, in a state of capricious inspiration. Tan gave a stylish, neatly turned performance of this radical early work. The fortissimos of the eighth piece were understated, while the 11th began too loudly, but these were rare misjudgements, and the whole had a great sense of enjoyment.
Tan also brought this to Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales, not quite as epigrammatic as Papillons but still in the fleeting, kiss-the-joy-as-it-flies line of piano miniatures. Some pianists kill them with a pastel-coloured refinement, but Tan blew all preciousness away with his robust and bouncy style. The first number was positively happy, the second voluptuous and delicate at the same time, the third warmly reminiscent of the world of Mother Goose. The sixth went hoppity-hop and was over in a flash. And if the most exuberant bits of the seventh waltz missed their target, because slightly insecure and under-powered, the final resumé was all the better for being based on a firm beat.
Still in an outgoing mood, Tan ended with Schubert's first set of Impromptus. In the first, his varied, sometimes impulsive trajectory of moods suggested a narrative. He swept through the second almost impatiently, but the famous G flat major piece didn't quite flow, its phrases sounding stilted over a detached, oscillating accompaniment instead of the whole texture blending seamlessly. If the final Impromptu seemed, by the end, a bit of an endurance test, put it down to Schubert's obsession with one little rhythmic pattern.Reuse content