Marian Poole, Piano Teacher and Music Critic.

Review of a Michael Hill Violin Competition

Nikki Choi and Stephen Pledge

Nikki Chooi winner of the 2013 Michael Hill Violin Competition supported by world-renown pianist Stephen de Pledge performed an excellent programme with exceptional commitment to technical and interpretative prowess to a large audience at the Glenroy Auditorium on Saturday evening, as part of his victory lap of New Zealand. Chooi breathes with the phrasing of the works and creates a personal statement out of each work. Having warmed the audience with Mozart’s disarming Sonata for Piano and Violin in E flat, Chooi then disarmed them with a muscular, thunderous and fragile performance of Sonata no 1 in F minor by Prokofiev. Written over an eight-year period from the outset of the Second World War to reflect the “noble problem” as Prokofiev said, of living in Soviet Russia, this work does not mince its message. Wrought from Chooi’s fraying bow its language of ferocity became compelling; its sense of the loss of pastoral idyll achingly beautiful; the spiritual and physical demands of its both guttural and ethereal nobility were met with piercing accuracy. The Dunedin audience reveled in such a palpable interpretation of this relatively unknown work.

Chooi’s solo performance of two virtuosic works, Ravel’s passionate “Tzigane” (1922) and the cheeky yet reverential bending of quotes from famous classics in Ysaye’s Sonata for Solo Violin op27 no2 (1923) revealed that Chooi’s astronomic technical skills quite rightly do not distract the ear from the music. Jack Body’s “Caravan”, (2013) takes the audience into an Iranian soundscape. Chooi’s solo interpretation was charmingly ethereal and as faithful as a transcription can be. Highlights from De Falla’s Suite Populaire Espagnole (1914-15) include the beautiful “Nana” and the rude vigour of “Polo”.

After an already generous programme, a stamping and cheering audience were rewarded with an encore of Gershwin’s punchy Prelude no 1.


Marian Poole