David Tong

Benjamin Chee
Limelight (Australia)

The Romantic warhorses in this valedictory recital by newcomer David Tong were evidently chosen to showcase his strengths. He makes a big push to impress right away with an athletic and valiantly dispatched rendition of Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Sonata, fulminating and enthusiastic in turns.

Tong also gives the Chopin Scherzo No. 3 quite a working over, brutally idiosyncratic to the point where a dash of puckish finger-work would not have been amiss.

The Liszt pieces, which fill the second-half of this album, stand up better to Tong’s hammering scrutiny having been intended as virtuosic showpieces by their composer. The ‘Mephisto Waltz’ is chock-full of swirling Lisztian drama and the concluding ‘Wilde Jagd’ (Wild Hunt) ‘Transcendental Etude’ crackles with elemental cross-rhythms and enfiladed keyboard leaps, ostensibly to finish the program as impressively as it began – and it works, sort of.

The timbre of colouring in the quasi-orchestral Liszt works could have been less somber, and, for all his dexterity, Tong’s musical ideas are not exactly new, either.

However, artistic interpretation aside, the remarkable album provides a snapshot of a brilliant young artist clearly destined for greater things, and it would be quite interesting to hear him revisit these works in, say, 10 years, and (as it were) compare notes