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Notes on the performers
Hong Kong pianist Harris Tsz-Chun Leung graduated his postgraduate study at the Royal College of Music in 2022 with distinction, with the support of Noel Croucher Scholarships. Before his study with Gordon Fergus-Thompson in London, he studied piano with Amy Sze and harpsichord with Betty Li at the University of Hong Kong, where he was awarded first honour for his Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Music and Linguistics. He has also received scholarships and prizes during his undergraduate study, including Bernard Van Zuiden Prize (2019-2020), Jao Yu Tsong Memorial Prize in Music (2018-19), Professor Robert Lord Memorial Prizes in Music (2017-18), and support from the Ho Wing-Hing Talent Fund (2018-19) for his competition in Osaka. Harris has been playing a wide range of genres and styles of music. He joined the Early Music Ensemble during his undergraduate study as a continuo player, playing harpsichord and chamber organ. Apart from performing as a soloist, he has also been collaborating with choirs, singers and many other instrumentalists. He made his concerto debut with the Hong Kong University Students’ Union Philharmonic Orchestra in 2018 at the HKU Grand Hall. He has won prizes at competitions for both piano duet and solo, including the First Prize in piano four-hands class in the 19th Osaka International Music Competition, and the third-place in the Gold Medal Award, 71st Hong Kong Schools Music Festival.
Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937)
Joseph Maurice Ravel is often associated with Impressionism along with his elder contemporary Claude Debussy, although both composers rejected the term. Prélude was commissioned by the Paris Conservatoire, to serve as a sight-reading piece for the 1913 Women’s Piano Competition at the Conservatoire. The piece is in A minor, quite slow and very expressive.
Claude Debussy (1862 – 1918)
Hommage à Haydn
Hommage à Haydn is a musical work by Claude Debussy written for piano , composed as part of the collective work Hommage à Joseph Haydn promoted by Jules Écorcheville for the Revue musicale SIM to celebrate the centenary in 1909 of Joseph ‘s death Haydn. Guy Sacre considers the Hommage à Haydn as a “writing exercise”:”After a short , distant and wry prelude , which constitutes the best moment of the work, with its way of deferring the key of G major ( slow waltz movement ), the theme is alternately diminished in garlands of sixteenth notes ( lively ), augmented in chorale in bass and soprano, fragmented in the high-pitched ( restrained ), derhythmed above a stubborn staccato in the left hand ( little by little animated ), treated in placid chords , pianissimo, before two measures of the prelude, and a final arabesque that pierces the treble of the piano
Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937)
Gaspard de la nuit
Gaspard de la nuit (subtitled Trois poèmes pour piano d’après Aloysius Bertrand), M. 55 is a suite of piano pieces by Ravel, written in 1908. It has three movements, each based on a poem or fantaisie from the collection Gaspard de la Nuit – Fantaisies à la manière de Rembrandt et de Callot completed in 1836 by Aloysius Bertrand. The work was premiered in Paris, on January 9, 1909, by Ricardo Viñes. The piece is famous for its difficulty, partly because Ravel intended the Scarbo movement to be more difficult than Balakirev’s Islamey. Because of its technical challenges and profound musical structure, Scarbo is considered one of the most difficult solo piano pieces in the standard repertoire.
Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971)
The Firebird is a ballet and orchestral concert work by the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. It was written for the 1910 Paris season of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes company; the original choreography was by Michel Fokine, who collaborated with Alexandre Benois on a scenario based on the Russian fairy tales of the Firebird and the blessing and curse it possesses for its owner. It was first performed at the Opéra de Paris on 25 June 1910 and was an immediate success, catapulting Stravinsky to international fame. Although designed as a work for the stage, with specific passages accompanying characters and action, the music achieved equal if not greater recognition as a concert piece.
Feux d’artifice (from Prelude book 2)
Claude Debussy composed his two books of preludes during a remarkably brief period—the first, between December 1909 and February 1910; and the second, during roughly the same period in 1912-13. The last of Debussy’s 24 preludes, Feux d’artifice (“Fireworks”) is also the most technically challenging. It depicts a brilliant and spectacular fireworks display over Paris, and captures in tones the many furious streaks of rockets and their colourful explosions in the night sky. Sweeping runs, outlining two major thirds a semitone apart, open the prelude, perhaps depicting the anticipation of the audience, while isolated tones, like little points of light, sound in the upper register of the piano. The texture of the piece grows ever thicker and more complex and colours abound as the harmonies, figurations and dynamics change to give representation to the wondrous display and patterns of coloured light. At its close, the visual display begins to slowly fade away. Over a tremolo in the bass a brief quote of La Marseillaise is heard before the last flashes of colour.
Alexander Scriabin (1871 – 1915)
Vers la flame, Op.72
Vers la flamme (Toward the flame), Op. 72, is one of Alexander Scriabin’s last pieces for piano, written in 1914. The main motif of the piece consists of descending half steps or whole steps interspersed with impressionistic representations of fire. The piece was originally intended to be Scriabin’s eleventh sonata; however, he had to publish it early because of financial concerns, and hence the labelled it a poem rather than a sonata. Like many of Scriabin’s late works, the piece does not conform to classical harmony and is instead built on the mystic chord and modal transpositions of its tone centre. The piece is notorious for its difficulty, in particular the enormous leaps and long, unusual double-note trills in the final pages.