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Review: Hong Kong pianist’s recital infused with style and beauty

One of the standouts of the preliminary round of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition was Rachel Cheung of Hong Kong. She was back on the Bass Hall stage on Tuesday morning for her quarterfinal recital, and once again her playing was exceptional. She began with a rarity — at least in competition terms: Sibelius’ “Valse triste.” This means “Sad Waltz,” and there is more than a touch of melancholy in this lovely work.

Cheung gave a moving performance that fit well in mood with what followed on her program. The Sibelius served as a warmup for a complete performance of the 24 preludes, Opus 28, of Chopin. This set was obviously inspired by Bach’s “Well-Tempered Klavier.”; both travel through all the major and minor keys, though in different order.

Their style, of course, is totally different.

Chopin himself never played more than a few of his preludes in public, but the complete set has become one of the most popular items on pianists’ programs — certainly including the Cliburn. Cheung’s journey through the set was full of lyrical beauty and stylish interpretations. It was 45 minutes that made me long for more.

The first two performers of the morning were Georgy Tchaidze of Russia and Kenneth Broberg of the United States.

Both had done well in the preliminaries (obviously), but there was not much fire this time, even in a work such as Prokofiev’s Sonata No.

8 (Tchaidze) or Liszt’s “Apr?s une lecture de Dante” (Broberg).

I liked Broberg’s account of Chopin’s fourth ballade and Tchaidze’s way with two Schubert intermezzos.

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