A Veteran Pianist from Japan Gives a London Recital

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Chopin, Toshiya Sukegawa, Bach, Mussorgsky, Liszt: Ingrid Fuzjko Hemming (piano),  Cadogan Hall, London. 24.3.2012 (RB)

Chopin: 12 Études Op 25
Toshiya Sukegawa: Chiisaki Inochi No Tameni ‘Lacrimosa’
Bach: Chorale ‘Jesus bleibet meine Freude’ (Cantata BWV147)
Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition
Liszt: Un Sospiro; La Campanella

Ingrid Hemming is one of Japan’s most pre-eminent concert pianists and she is now a very venerable figure in that country as she approaches her 80th birthday. In 1971 she lost most of her hearing due to a bout of high fever but she still continued to perform both in Japan and continental Europe. I think it is fair to say that Hemming’s heyday as a concert virtuoso is behind her but it was nevertheless intriguing to listen to this elderly and relatively frail lady work her way through this technically demanding programme.

Hemming very sensibly decided to follow Arrau’s lead and to slow down the tempi for most of Chopin’s Op 25 Études. There was some wobbliness and inaccuracies and a few minor memory lapses but for the most part Hemming managed to give a reasonably convincing account of these miniature masterpieces. I think Hemming should be applauded simply on account of continuing to play both the G sharp minor and ‘Winter Wind’ Études as she approaches 80. The piece by Toshiya Sukegawa (b. 1930) was relatively pleasant and the transcription of ‘Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring’ was played with nice tonal warmth.

Pictures at an Exhibition was vividly characterised and both ‘Tuileries’ and ‘Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks’ were handled well. ‘The Old Castle’ had warmth and lyricism and there was a good variety of tone in the various iterations of the promenade theme. Hemming did not have the necessary power or pace to handle ‘Baba Yaga’ or ‘The Great Gate of Kiev’ but she did her best to bring out the distinctive characteristics of each piece. The two concert studies which ended the concert are Hemming specialities and I was taken aback at how well she handled the technical demands of both pieces.

Hemming received warm applause from the audience and played two of Chopin’s Op 10 Études as encores.

Robert Beattie