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European-American Topics - Culture - Tien Hsieh

Romanticism Magnified with Pianist Tien Hsieh  
Review by
Elena Goukassian
Posted November 15, 2007

Tien Hsieh


         On Saturday, November 10, I attended a recital given by Taiwanese-born pianist Tien Hsieh. Titled Romanricism Magnified, this was the second installment of the Virtuoso Piano Series at Town Hall. Although the hall itself was only about half-full, the audience, a few of whom I managed to interview after the concert, appeared to be very pleased with Ms. Hsieh's  performance of  the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Robert Schumann, and Franz Liszt.

            Ms. Hsieh started the program with two pieces, written by Bach and Beethoven, respectively, and later arranged by Romantic composer Franz Liszt. The first was Bach’s Organ Fantasy and Fugue in G Minor, BWV 542. I found that Liszt's arrangement of this work was so romanticized that the Fantasy did not sound like Bach at all. It was not until the Fugue that the qualities typical of Baroque music became apparent. Ms. Hsieh played the Fantasy and Fugue with great vigor and passion. Next came Liszt's arrangement of Beethoven's An die ferne Geliebte (To the Distant Beloved), Op. 98. Ms. Hsieh performed this song cycle really well, so that it was like the piano was, in fact, “singing” the songs.

             The last piece of the first half was the Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111, Beethoven’s final sonata, written only six years before his death. In my opinion, this was the highlight of the recital, especially the first movement. “It was intense,” commented Asli Omur, a senior at the University of Washington, “[Ms. Hsieh was so animated that] her bun turned into a ponytail.” Perceptible emotion aside, Ms. Hsieh’s feeling and reaction to the music could be sensed in her intonation and powerful crescendos and diminuendos, not to mention her impressive technique. She seemed to digress a bit in the middle of the second movement, but she regained her strength toward the end and finished the Sonata with as much vigor and feeling as she had shown at the beginning.

             After a brief intermission, the audience reassembled for Schumann’s Humoreske, Op. 20. Schumann himself considered this his most melancholic composition. Ms. Hsieh handled it  skillfully,  playing with a very broad scope of feeling, moving rapidly from merriment to melancholy and back again. 

            Ms. Hsieh finished the program with Liszt’s Rhapsodie Espagnole. “The Liszt was very exciting,” remarked Frank Stackhouse, a local physician and lover of piano music, “[Ms. Hsieh] has a great range of emotion.” Ms. Hsieh, acknowledged for her expertise in the interpretation of Liszt, recently performed at the Liszt Museum in Budapest, Hungary. The Rhapsodie Espagnole is one of her signature pieces, and for good reason. Her performance was so refined that she received a very enthusiastic standing ovation. This led to an encore, Schumann’s Dedication, which the composer had written for his wife, Clara, and Ms. Hsieh dedicated to her appreciative audience.

            John Erling, avid music lover and proprietor of the late Fifth Avenue Record Store summed up the experience: “This girl is one hundred percent talent!” he declared eagerly, “Those fierce octaves...[Ms. Hsieh] tossed them off like nothing. The Schumann and Liszt were a knockout.” He added that it was a shame more people did not come to hear her play.

For more on the Virtuoso Piano Series at Town Hall visit our Events Ongoing

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