Overwhelming young piano talent

It simply is not reasonable that Mo Cheung-yu should be so astounding. The Beijing-born American-educated artist is not even 25 years old. But his recital of the Liszt Sonata and French 20th-century works was - for lack of any more suitable word - overwhelming.

Mo Cheung-yu hardly gave the full-house audience time to warm up. Within seconds, he took three of Debussy's unapproachable Etudes, almost making them affectionate.

The tongue-in-cheek five-note etude must have come as a jolt to students in the audience, yet the rhythms were kept intact, the Bach-like counterpoint was crystalline.

The second was Chopinesque, but Mo's fingers glided over the silken tones effortlessly.

The last etude was like a continuation of the first, yet the complexities were translucent.

The second piece is perhaps the most difficult in the French repertoire, but Mo managed to sail through the first and third of Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit.

The test, though, is in the hallucinogenic Gibet. Not once did those bells of internment stop, the sonorities doom-filled and picturesque.

It takes audacity for any pianist to tackle one of the Messiaen colour-bird works, yet in Le Merle Bleu, again Mo did wonders. Messiaen didn't simply translate his beloved birds. Along with the precise adaptation, here he added water, hills, a subtlety of blue colours and somehow made it all hang together.

Inevitably, one feels that Liszt should be - temperamentally and digitally - too much for this lanky young artist. Granted, he had his share of wrong notes, unavoidable with such a concentrated emotional performance. But in those notorious prestissimo double octaves, he came down in tremendous style, the fugue was clear, and the performance of unfettered expression.

There was no way of knowing Mo's limitations. But even at this point, he is a pianist of solid execution, courageous programming and electrifying results. Mo Cheung-yu, pianist City Hall Theatre, August 26