Pianist Moye Chen at Carnegie Hall – Review

Moye Chen performing at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall on Monday

By Jonathan Spira on 20 January 2015
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Moye Chen, a Chinese pianist whose resume includes studies at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and Oberlin Conservatory of Music, has the distinction of having won first prize in the 58th Cincinnati World Piano Competition last year. He performed an ambitious program in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall last night.

Weill Recital Hall, which has been a part of Carnegie Hall since the latter opened in 1891, is an intimate small auditorium that has showcased up and coming young pianists. It was renovated in 1986 and emerged with an elegant and classic look but was marred by a high-frequency sound that was harsh despite good low- and mid-range frequencies. The following year, Carnegie officials installed eight sets of drapes along the side walls, as well as the same fabric over the curved wall above the balcony and part of the back wall.

The light-blue velour drapes match the hall’s seats. Along with the cream-colored wall coverings, they absorb high-register sound while leaving other frequencies intact.

Mr. Chen began the program by presenting two works by Scarlatti (Sonata in G Minor, K. 8 and Sonata in G Major, K. 146) and three pieces by Grieg (To Spring, Op. 43, No. 6; Butterfly, Op. 43, No. 1; and March of the Dwarfs, Op. 54, No. 3.). He played with a great technical facility that suited the pieces but otherwise displayed little emotion.


Next came Mozart’s Sonata No. 10 in C Major, K. 330, perhaps Mozart’s most popular piano Sonata and it was here that Mr. Chen’s personality began to emerge, particularly in the third movement, which is the most energetic of the piece.

The first half of the program ended with Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 19.  The sharp theme that opens the piece moves up and down the keyboard and develops a more Hungarian character as it goes on, something that Mr. Chen’s virtuosity made more interesting as well.  He played an arrangement by pianist Vladimir Horowitz, who had complained that the great ideas in the piece were “not developed” and the piece itself was a little bit “naïve.”

Mr. Chen sailed through the second part of the program, two pieces by Scriabin (Valse in A-flat Major, Op. 38 and Sonata No. 10, Op. 70) concluding with Rachmaninoff’s Sonata No 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 36, also arranged by Horowitz.  Rachmaninoff himself had not been satisfied with the original version of the piece, first performed in Moscow in 1913, and worked on a revised version, which he finished in 1931.  In 1940, Horowitz created a version that combined aspects of both the original and revised pieces with the composer’s consent.

Mr. Chen’s rendition was majestic and lyrical, taking full advantage of the opportunity the piece offers for a display of virtuosity, after which he offered a very short encore.

(Photos: Accura Media Group)

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