It's going to be fun: St Peter's Church welcomes a young pianist and her menagerie of classical pieces
The Taiwanese pianist An-Ting Chang will open the fifth series of Brilliant Young International Pianists and Musicians at St Peter's Church on Sunday, October 23. And she is bringing with her a wonderful musical menagerie of pieces - some of them evergreen favourites and some that could well become favourites.
An-Ting, who is married and lives in Bristol, has a somewhat different background to most concert performers. She studied chemistry at Taiwan's foremost university before deciding on a career in music.
She told Marlborough.News: "I've always played the piano quite seriously. Only when I had to stay in the lab all day long to do chemical experiments, did I realise that I much prefer to work on the piano for my career - instead of doing science."
She is now an accomplished concert pianist. Why did she decide on an animal theme for her Marlborough recital? "I feel the way musicians programme their concerts is very important to enhance the audience’s appreciation of the music. So I always do it very carefully."
"The idea for the ‘animal’ programme came after I transcribed and played Saint- Saëns’ The Carnival of Animals for piano duet, flute, cello and percussion. I was fascinated by the musical description of the animals and thought it would be very interesting if I can show the audiences many different compositions inspired by the animals in the different styles. And it is fun!"
So St Peter's Church will be home to all manner of beasts, insects and fowls. There will be butterflies (Schumann), a nightingale (with a maiden) (Granados), a flying bumblebee (Rimsky-Korsakov), a trout (Schubert), a gold fish (Debussy), a cat and mouse (Copland), a cuckoo (Daquin), Saint-Saëns’ full carnival and Chopin's little dog waltzing away.
This last piece is sometimes called the Minute Waltz - that's 'minute' as in 'tiny' - when you were learning the piano, we asked An-Ting, was it known as the 'Little dog waltz'? "Yes, it is known in Taiwan as ‘little dog’. I've known it since I was about ten. I had a little Pomeranian and the way it chased its tail was exactly like the character of the music!"
Not content with her chemistry and piano studies, An-Ting also studied for a degree in drama. This has led her to found Concert Theatre - which gives live performances joining music and actors: "I am very glad that I can now combine my interest in drama with my passion for music."
Concert Theatre began life as a project for her degree at the Royal Academy of Music in London: "I created a performance by combining a play by Sarah Kane - 4.48 Psychosis - with music for piano by Webern and Gibbons, focusing in particular on themes of sanity and insanity. As a pianist, I performed side-by-side with actors on the same stage."
"Since the music and the play were not directly choreographed or composed for each other, each provided a distinct and independent language of its own and I felt that the collisions between these two languages could inspire the audiences to experience fresh views on both works."
She is carrying on the development of this idea for her PhD at the Royal Academy and has formed a non-profit company to test it more widely: "I am currently working on a new production, The Tenant, based on Anne Brontë’s Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Scriabin’s 24 Preludes, Mozart’s sonata for piano and violin K. 378, and Brahms’ Rhapsody Op. 79."
In The Tenant, the 19th-century story is presented through two actors on stage and 20th-century piano and pianist - live on-stage along side them. The Tenant will be launched in April 2017 at National Portrait Gallery, the Holburne Museum in Bath and other venues, as an immersive performance within the gallery context."
This fusion of music and drama has found favour with many audiences with accolades such as ‘poignant and beautiful’ (Gramophone.) The playright Caryl Churchill: "I found it quite moving to experience these two quite different performances, each coming through in its own right while illuminating the other in unexpected ways." And Michael White writing in the Daily Telegraph described one Concert Theatre performance as "strikingly innovative."
An-Ting's recital on October 24 may not have the drama of a Concert Theatre performance, but the linking of such a diverse range of composers with the one theme will provide an intriguing and rewarding evening's music.
These recitals are given on behalf of the Marlborough Brandt Group and the St Peter's Trust and are supported by Robert Hiscox and Hiscox Insurance.
Details of this recital and tickets can be found at Marlborough.News' What's On calendar. But note a change to the programme: An-Ting will not be playing the Mozart - on reflection she decided the Mozart variations did not fit closely enough to her ‘animal’ theme.