A pianist to watch out for

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 August, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 August, 1996, 12:00am

Born in Hong Kong, Gitanjali Ram has recently been making a name for herself in England and France, both as soloist and duo performer with her cellist husband. Her Sha Tin recital last weekend was the first time I had heard her. And while the venue was hardly perfect - a cavernous auditorium and fidgety audience - she proved quite impressive.

Ms Ram confined herself to a pair of 19th century composers. But any pianist who can essay the arcane drama of late Schubert and the schizoid traumas of Schumann in the same evening deserves utmost respect. The Schubert A Major Sonata is hardly easy, emotionally or digitally, yet Ms Ram generated a surprising cohesion out of the ambiguities. They were surprising, because her playing of the first movement was notably tense. The music demands the most tragic lines, but Ms Ram made one feel almost uncomfortable.

The second movement was so outwardly lovely, that the middle section - with those musical screams of pain - seemed even more alarming.

It was the finale, though, where Ms Ram showed honest originality, broadening out an almost simple theme towards the end with a genuine richness.

Of the two Schumann works, her performance of the eight Noveletten was pleasing, if not especially picturesque. In this auditorium, achieving a variety of sonorities is practically impossible, but Ms Ram compensated for this with a fine sense of rhythm and imagination.

The Kreisleriana was the most fascinating, because the personality of the work is an obvious clue to the personality of the performer. In this, Ms Ram was most at home in the romantic sections. The second section showed her with an almost silken legato hand, played with honest grace. In the fourth section, again, Ms Ram played with a pellucid hand.

One could not say that Ms Ram penetrated into the music, and essaying of more fiery sections, while impressive, hardly gave the spontaneity which should come in time. Gitanjali Ram, pianist. Sha Tin Town Hall, August 24