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Brighton Year-Round 2020

Yaqi Yao, Violin and Cheung Man Lok Piano Recital

Yaqi Yao and Cheung Man Lok

Genre: Live Music, Music

Venue: St Nicholas Church, Dyke Road, Brighton


Low Down

Yaqi Yao and Cheung Man Lok give a violin and piano recital including a solo item each: the opening Adagio, from Bach’s G minor Violin Sonata BWV1001, Mendelssohn’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in F minor Op 4, Chopin’s Fantasy-Polonaise in a flat major Op 61, Massenet’s Meditation from Thais.


I’ve never heard Yaqi Yao and Cheung Man Lok before but on this evidence they’re likely to be heard from individually and together in many places.

Yao began this ‘My Fantasy world’ concert with the opening Adagio, from Bach’s G minor Violin Sonata BWV1001. It’s an exploratory though plangent movement, essaying grief – G minor is about mourning and particularly death in baroque aesthetics –in a slow winding arc: that seems contradictory till you hear it. Yao’s tone is sharply etched yet blooms in this acoustic.

Mendelssohn’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in F minor Op 4 is as little-known as the second, in f major from 1838, rejected much later by Mendelssohn’s publisher. Yet both works are worth knowing, particularly this one. There’s a Mozartian classicism tempered with individual Mendelssohnian dark the 16-year-old was discovering.

The opening Adagio – Allegro moderato is a dark wandering contained in the classical frame, reaching back at the start to Bach moving towards a very Mozartian plangency. Indeed it’s the most Mozartian I’ve ever heard in Mendelssohn.

The Poco adagio is a remarkable nudged-along slow movement delicately shaded by the piano with delicately rocking effects. Only in the Allegro agitato do moments of early Mendelssohn emerge, which were about to burst in the same year (1825) in the Octet.

Lok returned for his solo piece, Chopin’s Fantasy-Polonaise in a flat major Op 61, his last major work, fusing the Fantasy form Mozart Beethoven and Schubert as well as Schumann used to create a free-flowing un-genred work. Chopin though is always pristine and the two elements are perfectly identified as his lyricism maps on to them.

Lok enjoys the declamatory notes that lead out winding like a   Ballade, but this is more structured, more cumulative and of course – it’s a Polonaise eventually – pretty syncopated as well. It’s dark declamatory and here Lok thrills to a sharply-projected palate, emphasizing there’s nothing washy about Chopin: it’s clear, precisely notated and he expected to hear it that way His pianos were French Errard and this is a French Elysian. The fiendishness of rhythmic shifts are palpable to the keen listener as Lok takes breathtaking risks. It’s thrilling and Lok nails the declamatory clarity, the rhythmic verve and sweep of the aristocratic dance that underpins his late harmonic language.

Finally the duo unite in a lyrical display from the violin in particular, Yao’s effortless tight lyricism essayed in Massenet’s Meditation from Thais with a seamless cantabile etched delicately but soaring by the end. A memorable debut, with welcome original repertoire.