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Review from The Arts Magazine, Issue May/June 2000



A Valiant Enterprise

simultaneously on two pianos. In addition, the lack of variety of tone colour, especially in a bathroom like acoustic like the VCH, is a problem in creating musical coherence.In spite of these difficulties, the Lin/Ong combination came out rather well, with the accompaniment always sensitive, sometimes overly so, and Linís contribution effective and secure.The success of the performance was enhanced by the fact that Rachmaninov was, first and foremost, a com-posing pianist whose con-ception of his music always stemmed from the piano.If the thried movement had its moments of instability, they stood out mainly because they were a very rare occurrence in this recital.And the second theme of the last movement is indeed a great tune, whatever the medium!John Howard

Piano Recital by

Albert Lin

23 Feb 2000, 8pm

Victoria Concert Hall


Albert Linís debut concert upon graduation from the University of Michigan proved an enterprising affair, not without its risk-taking aspects.

†† Schumannís Carnaval is a difficult work and a brave one with which to open a recital, especially for a young pianist.Along with some vigorous and energetic playing went some which was hurried and a little too frenetic.†† Nevertheless, there was some musically sensitive playing in Eusebius.Linís technical capabilities are of a high order, and maturity will bring with it greater poise and rhythmic control. It has to be said that the

Victoria Concert Hall (VCH) acoustic is not ideal for this kind of piano repertoire, which can easily sound too confused and inarticulate within such a resonant environment.The challenge is for the performer to listen and adapt to the context, in other words, to match the pacing and accentuation to the ambient sound.

All credit to Lin for programming US composer Lowell Liebermannís Gargoyles.The first movement, a danse macabre, was impressively performed and convincingly clear.This was neatly contrasted with the more impressionistic second movement, with the fourth showing Prokofiev-like driving rhythms and pulse, being a highlight.However, it did seem too much like Prokofiev but without the biting dissonances that give it energy.

†† Linís enterprise showed in the second half, first when he was joined by five wind players in a performance of the Poulenc Sextet.Not only did this help to provide variety of sound in the programme, it also showed a different side to this young pianist.His contributions to the Poulenc were always thoughtful and effective, and the general impression was of a very well prepared performance by the whole ensemble.

†† The final work was Rach-maninovísPiano Concerto No. 2, in which Lin was joined by Ong Lip Tat on the second piano.Such a version of a concerto is always bound to be less satisfactory in comparison with the original:there are many problems of balance and co-ordination.It is very difficult to attack notes


Review from The Flying Inkpot, Issue March 2000


23 February

Victoria Concert Hall

Albert LIN piano


Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Carnival, Op.9
Lowell LIEBERMANN (b.1961)
Gargoyles, Op.29
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Sextet for Piano and Winds
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Piano Concerto No.2, Op.18 (arr. piano duo)
MOHD Rasull flute ∑ Frankie TOH oboe
XIE Xiu Shan French horn ∑ ZHANG Jin Min bassoon
TAY Kai Tze clarinet ∑ ONG Lip Tat piano (Rach)

by Soo Kian Hing

Over pasta and Campari by the Singapore river, during the post-concert celebration supper with his sextet and some close companions, soft-spoken Albert Lin is your typical boy next door. While personable with smiles all the way, he does not hesitate to mercilessly tackle his friends with cheeky, well-timed jibes. Yet, beneath the charming demeanour of this unassuming youngster - he's only one year past twenty - belies the belly of fire that commanded the awe of everyone in the audience tonight. After all, even Rachmaninov himself was said to smile and play pranks in the company of close friends.

Having won the third prize at the National Music Competition in 1995, Albert Lin became the youngest undergraduate student at Peabody Conservatory, USA. He toured New York and Baltimore with Grammy-Award-winning percussionist Jonathan Haas, and was an official school accompanist for all the Conservatory's major ensembles. Transferring two years later to study with Professor Arthur Greene at the University of Michigan, he assimilated a repertoire with an avid interest in esoteric music, and participated in the semi-finals of the 1999 California International Young Artists Competition. He has also played Rachmaninov's Second and Third Piano Concerto while in the States, before returning home to Singapore for National Service in the Armed Forces this coming April. After homecoming, Albert has busied himself in the local music scene by giving various recitals, playing in concerts and performing in a sextet (featured tonight), all for the love of music.

Robert Schumann was a prolific composer for piano, and in his early composing life wrote many technically challenging pieces for the instrument, at which his beloved Clara Wieck was a formidable exponent. Op.9, Carnaval, was written at the age of 24, at a time when he was actively involved in his "David Club" against the artistic philistines. Youthful energy abounds throughout the work, interspersed with the composer's own brand of contemplative Romantic lyricism; reflecting the two polarities of his creative genius, Florestan and Eusebius. Albert played the work with the consummate grace of a poet, yet his untainted disposition matched the sunny Florestan through the collection of twenty-one short pieces, each of which was a simple depiction of a character.

Lowell Liebermann is a prodigious pianist and composer, having made his Carnegie Hall debut at the age of sixteen. Gargoyles, despite its modern leanings, is a neo-Romantic work of four movements, set in a Gothic paradise for these creatures of the dark. As the midnight bell tolls, Albert negotiates the treacherous fingerwork with wild abandon, giving his own jaw-dropping virtuosity a deservedly good showing. The unsettling calm of the second movement, set in dual-tonality which employs major and minor modes simultaneously, was very effective, as was the final movement, a dramatic toccata not unlike that of Prokofiev, though vastly more daring in harmony and demanding in technique. And as the faint rays of the new dawn send the Gargoyles back to their abode, so did Albert's fingerwork dispel any doubt that he is material poised for the Major League.

After the intermission, Albert presented his skills at a different genre of music - chamber. Not many solo pianists understand effective ensemble playing; Martha Argerich, for one, has ditched solo recitals to play chamber, which she considers more rewarding in terms of growth as a total musician. Albert was definitely in his element here as one of six equal partners in music-making, to the effect that the intended result became greater than the sum of each individual. Poulenc's Sextet was composed for six very disparate instruments: piano, flute, clarinet, oboe, French horn, and bassoon. Possessing unique timbres and vastly different qualities of sound, the six instrumentalists nevertheless managed to amalgate the myriad jumble of witty dissonances into a logical path through the piece. Consisting entirely of non-professional wind players except for Zhang Jin Min, who is Principal Bassoonist in the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, the sextet achieved a harmonious sound where nobody outshines the others and navigates the piece with sparkle and elegance.

Finally, the highlight of the night - Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto (in two-piano version). Despite being stated otherwise in the programme notes, I still believe that the Second is more popular with the general public than the Third, forming the staple of many pianists' recordings. The Second is immensely more Romantic, with massive rolling arpeggios and equally massive melodies which spiral round and round like the endless waves on a tumultous sea. Played well, it can rouse the listener into a timeless dimension where nostalgia washes over him/her like a tsunami.

However, as the composer himself pointed out, the Second is more difficult to play than the Third; given the numerous huge chords and other technical difficulties as well as opportunities for expressivity, it is not hard to see why. Albert definitely has the technique to pull through the piece, and the audience watched with bated breath as he recited the whole piece from memory, seemingly in a trance, letting his heart pour directy into his fingers.

Possessing a warm lyrical tone that can melt hearts, Albert showed no lack of fiery pyrotechnics as well, tossing off chords and fingerwork written to fit Rachmaninov's own oversized hands (which easily negotiated more than one-and-a-half octaves, something which most pianists wished they had). However, more nuances and subtlety in inner voices and transit passages would have been appreciated; these would come with insight and stylistic accomplishment.

Despite occasional lapses into arrhythmic garble and missed notes - he was visibly tired - Albert nevertheless displayed the air of a master at the keyboard, complete with an the overwhelming talent of being able to express his pure passion for the music he loves. Coming from someone who considers himself still in the amateur circuit, it would be worthwhile and fun to see him metamorphosize and eventually conquer the limitless sky.