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RWCMD Showcase 2024

Sunday 24th March 2024 at 3:00pm
St Mary the Virgin Church, St Briavels, GL15 6RG

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Final year and post-graduate students from the Royal Welsh College of Music & 
Drama are joined by outstanding younger students; the quality of their playing
never fails to excite and impress. 
We often feel that our RWCMD Showcase gives us an opportunity to see tomorrow’s stars today. With this line-up that opportunity seems more than ever likely…

The talented soloists and chamber ensembles present a varied programme – your
chance to come and enjoy tomorrow’s music stars performing today!

Beethoven: Sonata in D major, Op.10, No.3 
Liszt: Vallée d’Obermann
Beethoven: Sonata in C major, Op.53 ‘Waldstein’
Beethoven: Sonata in E flat major, Op.27, No.1 
Liszt: Légende No.2 (St François de Paule marchant sur les flots)
Bartok: Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs
Beethoven: Sonata in F minor, Op.57 ‘Appassionata’


“The first and last movements belong among the most brilliant and original pieces…but they are also full of strange whims and very difficult to perform.” So said a contemporary reviewer of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in C major, Op.53, the ‘Waldstein’, (published in 1805) a bravura composition demanding pedal trills and multiple octaves – all the bells and whistles, indeed, made possible by advances in turn-of-the-century piano design. If the piece was regarded as especially complex in its own age, it remains a recognised technical challenge to this day but it’s one for which pianist Charlotte Kwok will be more than ready when she takes the stage at our upcoming RWCMD Annual Showcase – she has been studying at the College's Junior Department since the age of 7 and, come October, she takes up a place at Trinity College, Oxford to read Music. In the meantime, she has won a number of local and national awards, including the prestigious Gregynog Piano Prize in November 2023. She will also be representing the RWCMD in this year’s Junior Intercollegiate Beethoven Competition.
Charlotte Kwok
Beethoven himself never played his sonatas publicly – it would be a later generation of musicians who would fix them at the heart of every pianist’s repertoire. Musicians like the piano prodigy Franz Liszt, two of whose works also feature in the programme: The Vallée d’Obermann (published in 1842) and Légende No.2 (St François de Paule marchant sur les flots) (published in 1863). They will be performed, respectively, by post-graduate student Zixian Chen, winner of the First Prize at the 11th Asian International Arts Competition, and by Stephanie Cheung, who’s still only in her second year of undergraduate studies and already a semi-finalist in the 2023 Royal Welsh College Concerto Competition.
Béla Bartók’s Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs (published in 1920) rank among his most experimental treatments of traditional tunes and feature quicksilver shifts of mood, some spiky syncopations and a deeply felt tribute to Claude Debussy, whose music had had a powerful influence on Bartók. They are the choice of final year Masters student Ziwei Zhao, a graduate of the Wuhan Conservatory of Music who took first place in her year’s piano exams.

A trio of Beethoven piano sonatas complete the programme for our annual showcase of selected students from the RWCMD and, as ever with a sequence of single-authored works, they provide a sharp-focussed illustration of the composer’s development – each one, a navigational waypoint in a voyage of progression.
The first is the Sonata in D major, Op.10, No.3 (completed in 1798), which sees the twenty-eight-year-old prodigy creating distinct and separate sound-worlds for each of his four movements. It feels rather like auditory speed-dating, a clutch of tonal pin-up shots of the composer’s skyrocketing abilities, with the D minor Largo, in particular, hinting at later tragic works to come (in its own right, it’s considered one of the most distinguished of all Beethoven’s slow movements). The piece will be performed by Chunyi Xu, a multiple scholarship-winner who double-majored in piano and voice at the Xian Conservatory of Music and who also featured in our last year’s showcase. 
The Sonata in E flat major, Op.27, No.1 (completed in 1801) is the companion fantasia piece to the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata, played for us in October by Daniel Tong. Here, despite the heightened contrasts between the four movements, Beethoven’s sound-worlds are starting to elide, each flowing continuously one into the other, sometimes rolling back on themselves to pick up earlier sequences and then toss them forward in the swell. This is long-form sonata narrative, forcing our attention on the composition as a whole, on the sum of its parts instead of the individual figures. It’s the musical selection of Qiuchi Wang, a graduate of Hunan University and, from her participation in international choral competitions, the winner of a Best Accompanist Award.
The final piece in the trilogy is the Sonata in F minor, Op.57, nicknamed the ‘Appassionata’ (this nickname postdates its 1807 publication date by some 31 years). It’s widely regarded as one of Beethoven’s greatest sonatas – he, himself, considered it a tempestuous piece – and it thrums with a fasten-your-seatbelts intensity. It will be played for us by Yuanxi Li, a graduate of Xinghai Conservatory of Music who took First Place in the youth groups of both the Hong Kong International Piano Invitational Competition and the 2nd Germany Lonishi International Piano Competition.

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