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Saturday 14 November 2009

Jessica Chan (Piano)


Originally from Taiwan, Jessica Chan came to the UK at the age of 13 to study at the Purcell School for Specialist Young Musicians. Since her Royal Festival Hall debut as a concerto soloist in the same year, Jessica has continued to perform extensively in the UK and abroad. She has toured Singapore, Malaysia, and the USA, and performed in major UK venues such as the Barbican, St Martin-in-the-Fields, and the South Bank (including a recital as part of the Park Lane Group's New Year Series 2002).

As a concerto soloist, Jessica has worked with conductors such as Vernon Handley, Richard Dickins and Peter Bassano, and recently she won the First Prize at the International Mozart Competition in Greece. She was awarded the 'Most Distinguished Performance' prize at the Concours International de piano d'Orléans 2006. Other awards won include the Boise Foundation Award, the Hopkinson Gold Medal for two consecutive years, the Craxton Memorial Award, the Wendy Hall Scholarship and the Alfred Brendel Award.

Jessica has participated in masterclasses given by renowned pianists: Paul Badura-Skoda, Claude Frank, Leif Ove Andsnes, and most recently Dominique Merlet. In 2004, Jessica graduated with distinction from the MMus course at the Royal College of Music, where she studied with Professor Yonty Solomon. She has since been awarded the first Frank Bridge Doctorate Studentship and now, alongside her performing career, is also pursuing her DMus degree at the Royal College of Music on the interpretation of Frank Bridge's work Phantasm.

Jessica Chan is a Philip & Dorothy Green Young Concert Artist and is sponsored by the Making Music Young Artists Award Scheme.



SONATA in G major, K470 (Allegro) - DOMENICO SCARLATTI (1685 - 1757)
SONATA in B minor, K197 (Andante)
SONATA in D major, K29 (Presto)

SONATA in D major, K576 - W. A. MOZART (1756-1791)


SONATA no.1 in F minor op.1 - SERGE PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)

IMAGES (Book 1) - CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862-1918)



SONATA in G major, K470 (Allegro) - DOMENICO SCARLATTI (1685 - 1757)
SONATA in B minor, K197 (Andante)
SONATA in D major, K29 (Presto)

Although Scarlatti was born in Naples, most of his harpsichord works were composed in Madrid and other Spanish cities. In fact, during the later years of his life, he was under the patronage of Queen Maria Barbara of Spain and composed over five hundred harpsichord pieces, printed initially in eleven volumes!

The little single-movement sonatas are often difficult to identify and categorise. In the 1950s, the harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick produced a definitive revision of an earlier catalogue of Scarlatti's works made by an Italian musician Alessandro Longo. Kirkpatrick defined each sonata with a 'K' number for easy identification. Regrettably for the music lover however, slight confusion still remains, since these pieces are occasionally referred to by both their 'K' numbers and also, at times, by their older 'L' (Longo) numbers.

Yet, however we choose to identify them, these totally charming miniatures may actually have been originally composed in pairs - one in a major key together with another in a corresponding minor key. Though these sonatas were written for the harpsichord, pianists have found that they transfer well to the modern piano. They are highly elegant and characteristic pieces and, though not profound, are both delightfully ebullient and intimately reflective.

SONATA in D major, K576 - W. A. MOZART (1756-1791)

This D major sonata by Mozart was written in Vienna in 1789 and was the last he composed for the piano. Many also feel that it is one of his most difficult sonatas. This mature work was composed not long after his final Symphony (No. 41 - Jupiter) and before the famous Clarinet Concerto a year or so later.

In many ways, this sonata can be seen to look backwards stylistically to an earlier musical period, in the imitative passagework of the first movement. However, the beautiful second movement, which starts in the key of A major, is florid and subtle in texture, and may perhaps look forward towards the work of Beethoven. The final Allegretto is a Rondo. With stylish, exciting and imitative piano triplets abounding in the pianist's left and right hand throughout this movement, the sonata ends with suitable panache.


These two works Berceuse and the Dramatic Fantasia date from 1901 and 1906 respectively. Frank Bridge, a fine conductor and string player, was born in Brighton and studied at the Royal College of Music in London. From 1906 until 1915, he was a regular viola player in both the celebrated Joachim Quartet and the English String Quartet. He was also a fine teacher and well known as the mentor of the young Benjamin Britten.

Today much of Bridge's reputation is based on a few well-known works such as his programmatic orchestral suite The Sea, the delightful song "E'en as a Lovely Flower", and the Phantasie Quartet for strings. However, Bridge's output was extensive and consisted of a large catalogue of quality orchestral, vocal and instrumental chamber music. His music is not performed as frequently as it deserves. But he wrote a considerable number of highly attractive piano pieces - many of which have been recently recorded by Ashley Wass on the Naxos label. For example, A Sea Idyll (written in 1905 and dedicated to the pianist Harold Samuel) and the more mature and expansive Piano Sonata (composed between 1921 and 1924) are two works which are richly rewarding to the listener.

The two pieces we are to hear tonight are both highly characteristic of the composer. The Dramatic Fantasia is clearly the work of greater weight, lasting some fifteen minutes. It was written during a period when Bridge had been extremely successful in a national competition for composers run by the London musician and writer William Cobbett. The Dramatic Fantasia is a big work and covers a huge emotional landscape. But, as it has been aptly written elsewhere: 'Some of this music is quite simply gorgeous'!


SONATA no.1 in F minor op.1 - SERGE PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)

Prokofiev is generally considered one of the most accomplished composers of the twentieth century. Certainly his popular orchestral and chamber music is much loved. He started his career as a concert pianist of distinction, and possibly his finest music for that instrument is contained in the nine sonatas which he composed over a forty-year period.

This F minor Sonata (op.1) was originally written in 1907 as a three-movement work. But Prokofiev was dissatisfied with the last two movements and finally revised and published it as a single-movement sonata in 1909. One is reminded of another composer, Alban Berg, who at roughly the same time (1908) also published a single-movement Sonata as his 'Op.1'. After agonising over the viability of his sonata as a one-movement work, Berg was advised by his mentor, Schoenberg, that the piece was complete without additional material.

Both the Prokofiev and the Berg sonatas are passionate and romantic works. But many will find the Prokofiev more immediately approachable. Prokofiev premiered his new Sonata in Moscow in 1910, and the theme we hear at the beginning of the work is one which makes its re-appearance throughout the piece in very different guises. This is powerful and dramatic music which thrills the listener and makes huge demands on the pianist, both technically and emotionally. But the experience is a richly rewarding one.

IMAGES (Book 1) - CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Reflets dans l'eau
Hommage à Rameau

Just prior to the composition of the two books that comprise Images in 1905, Debussy wrote curiously 'Music is a mysterious mathematical process whose elements share something of the nature of Infinity. It is allied to the movement of water…described by a changing breeze.' As a master musician of the Impressionistic movement, Debussy could easily visualise musical forms and ideas from common natural elements. Water was a particularly important inspiration for him.

The first movement of Images, entitled 'Reflections in the water', reveals our composer's ability to do far more than simply describe the movement of water with drowsy harmonies. We can almost see, for example, the shimmering light-beams on the surface of an imaginary lake. And we can also visualise an ever-widening circle of ripples on the water as expressed through undulating arpeggios in the music.

The second piece, entitled 'Homage to Rameau', is far more than a simple homage to the earlier celebrated French composer. It is in the form of a majestic Sarabande with a wide dynamic range (from 'pppp' to 'ff' in the score) and it uses the entire span of the piano keyboard to magnificent effect.

The final movement in Book 1 is entitled 'Mouvement' and is one in which the effect of a 'moto perpetuo' is provided by a continuous succession of triplets. These busy triplets are heard almost from the start, and they are relieved for a few bars only by a brief central contrasting section.


The great German pianist and composer Busoni was born in 1866 and was well renowned for his glamorous transcriptions of Bach's works. These brilliant transcriptions no doubt did much to familiarise the public with Bach's music during a period when his music was not well known. This Chaconne (one of Busoni's best-loved transcriptions) is based on the final movement of Bach's Partita no.2 for solo violin.

The Chaconne is a piece built on a simple eight-bar dance theme and consists of a set of variations. However, in Busoni's hands the whole construction develops magnificently into a work of almost orchestral proportions, thrilling us with its grandeur to the final chords.

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