Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus – X: Regard de l’Esprit de joie
Ma Mère l’oye [trans. Jacques Charlot]
Out of Doors
Islamey – Oriental Fantasy
Mei Yi Foo (piano)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 13 February, 2014
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
This recital was given as part of the occasional Thursday Lunchtime Showcase series at Wigmore Hall, an intriguing programme from Mei Yi Foo that began with the heady rush of ‘Regard de l’Esprit de joie’, rich and colourful here. Mei Yi Foo played with great dexterity, revelling in note clusters and ecstasy. After this, Ravel’s Mother Goose felt surprisingly chaste. Originally written in 1910 for piano duet, it is now heard predominantly in orchestral form, but works well in this transcription by Jacques Charlot, made in the year of publication. Mei Yi Foo played with an attractive sound and the clarity so essential to Ravel, but something was missing in the more expansive movements, with little to no rubato applied to ‘Le jardin féerique’ in particular, which would have given a more emotionally powerful impact.
Bartók wrote Out of Doors in 1926, the five-movement suite contemporaneous with his Piano Concerto No.1. Both pieces almost turn their back on conventional melody, taking rhythm as the lead, the piano turned into a percussion instrument. The first movement, ‘With pipes and drums’, certainly blows away the cobwebs, with its hammered low-register theme. Yet this performance was not always heavy, and indeed had some surprisingly smooth contours, Bartók unexpectedly tamed but inevitably losing the robust rhythmic profile. Far more effective was the disconcerting ‘Barcarolla’ and ‘The Night’s Music’, where Mei Yi Foo created some atmospheric nocturnal sounds. It was notable that this was the only music for which the pianist needed music – an indication, perhaps, that this is an interpretation in progress.
Balakirev’s Islamey is clearly not that, a piece lying completely under Mei Yi Foo’s fingers. She gave a near-faultless performance revelling in the ornamentations of the melody, which she presented with impeccable detail. This was a nifty rendition of a fiendishly difficult-to-play piece, but was all the more impressive for its musicality and sheer enjoyment. It confirmed Mei Yi Foo as a pianist to watch.