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Eric Guo playing in the HIPCC final 2019 (photo: John Cole).

Fascinating approach in Eric Guo’s online recital

Last week’s online concert by prizewinners in the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition was given by Eric Guo. HOT’s music corespondent Brian Hick followed it with interest.

Eric Guo – at 16, believed to be the youngest ever entrant in the competition – came third in last year’s competition. Before playing he spoke of his experiences since. Just at the point where his career should have been taking off with extensive concerts and access to international competitions, the lockdown brought all of this, even regular tuition, to an end.

His programme was given over to two longer works by Bach and Beethoven. At first this looked like a fairly obvious classical combination, but the pieces themselves and his approach to them proved fascinating.

He opened with Bach’s Prelude and Fugue No22 in B-flat minor, BWV 891, from Book 2 of The Well-Tempered Clavier. Composed in 1738, the work can seem abstract in impact but Eric Guo took an overtly romantic approach to it, particularly in the fugue where he created dramatic tension and often sensuous phrasing.

This was followed by Beethoven’s Sonata No 30 in E major, Op 109. Unusually Guo performed all three movements – which made this the longest of the concerts so far, at almost half an hour. The sonata, written in 1820, follows the Hammerklavier but could hardly be more different. The composer returns to an earlier, more intimate, style, and this may partly be due to its personal dedication to Maximiliane Brentano, the daughter of Beethoven’s long-standing friend Antonie Brentano.

The romantic yearning of the opening movement seems to move us firmly into the mid-century, though the quiet ending leaves us questioning rather than exultant.

Though Eric Guo spoke at some length at the start, he said nothing about the works themselves, which was a pity as it would have been good to have had some insight into why he chose these pieces and what they meant to him. His emotional involvement demonstrated his affinity to them, but more detail would have been welcome.

 

Posted 10:07 Tuesday, May 19, 2020 In: Music & Sound

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