Esplanade Recital Studio
Saturday (21 July 2012)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 23 July 2012 with the title "Vivid brushstrokes on the piano".

The title of the concert said it all, forwarding the idea that pictures or visual images could be eloquently expressed by way of sound bites and aural impressions. There were 25 separate pieces in this solo recital by Japanese pianist Miyuki Washimiya, now a regular visitor to Singapore, invited to perform in a series of concerts by the Kris Foundation.

Yet there was a thematic cohesion in the manner these were presented, in groups of three before culminating in Mussorgsky’s eponymous masterpiece, Pictures at an Exhibition. The recital opened with three Debussy Preludes, displaying Washimiya’s crystalline bell-like clarity amid a slew of shimmering textures.

The Japanese have a way with the French aesthete that is uncanny, whether swirling to the tarantella rhythm of The Hills of Anacapri, summoning the waves beneath The Engulfed Cathedralor simulating the quirky jives of Afro-American Minstrels. In these her pedalling was exemplary, fully exploiting the reverberant acoustics of the recital studio without ever sounding harsh.

In the three popular Liszt pieces, full-blooded Romantic emotions were held in check, so the ardour of Liebesträume No.3 and Consolation No.3 did not overflow as some might have liked. A few dropped notes resulted in La Campanella in being a little cautious, but the tintinnabulation of her trills was genuinely exciting as she rallied to a thunderous close.

The best performances came in the two Preludes and Etude by Ukrainian jazzman Nikolai Kapustin. Washimiya’s infectious sense of rhythm, incisive and unerring, coupled with note perfection at dizzying speeds swept the board. Where did she learn to play the jazzy blues like that?

The Mussorgsky Pictures were treated to an honest-to-goodness account rather than an out-and-out grandstanding one. Scrupulous to detail and the score, there was no need to shock and awe as each of Viktor Hartmann’s portraits steadily came to life. There was a troubadour’s lovesick yearning in The Old Castle, delicate traipsing in the Ballet of Unhatched Chicks, stark irony in the Two Russian Jews, all vividly characterised. Even the fiendish repeated notes of Limoges Marketplaceheld no terrors for her assured fingers. 

When the clangourous bells of The Great Gate of Kiev had finally silenced, encores were demanded. Washimiya offered two further gems: Kapustin’s Eleventh Prelude and Debussy’s most famous prelude, Girl with the Flaxen Hair. If one did not already get the drift, her message writ large was “small is beautiful”.