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Macau audience left in awe of child prodigies

South China Morning Post | 25 May 1988

MUSIC REVIEW
Macau Chamber Orchestra
Doming Lam, conductor
Macau Forum Two
Sunday, May 22
By BRADLEY WINTERTON

CHILD prodigies are extraordinarily powerful presences.

To see a boy of 11 sit down at a concert grand piano and nod to the conductor that he’s ready for the orchestra to begin is to be aware of the mystery at the heart of human life. The child is just a child, but the power within him appears already fully-grown.

Last Sunday in Macau the boy was Warren Lee, and before a packed audience he played Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto with confidence, attach and vigour. It wasn’t the performance of a boy, but of a man disguised in a child’s form.

You might expect that a performance by someone so young would lack feeling, that I might be technically accomplished but couldn’t possibly have the emotional power you’d expect from an adult artist’s rendering.

Yet this 11-year-old had the ability to bring tears to the eyes. His phrasing, his musical grace and his variation between light and shaded was quite simply astonishing.

Warren Lee’s performance bore out the insight given popular currency by the film Amadeus, that exceptional artists are not so much people to be praised as phenomena to be treasured, bearers of a power altogether greater than the poor vessels that contain it.

Nor was the wonder confined to one soloist. Earlier in the evening, we’d heard Christine Wong, 14, play Saint-Saens’ Third Violin Concerto in bravely heroic fashion.

It’s a very strong work anyway, passionate and tender by turns, and much more complex and emotionally introspective than the run of pieces by this composer.

And Christine Wong played it with great strength, producing darkly sonorous tones, and attacking the difficult music with a calm confidence that was breath-taking.

The point about such young performers is emphatically not that it’s so wonderful to see them doing what they do that the level of their achievement is irrelevant. The point is rather that their sophistication and accomplishment indicate that they are possessors of something beyond their own, and indeed anyone else’s, understanding.

They give another dimension altogether to the ancient question What is Man?

The Macau Chamber Orchestra played very finely, too. And when, after his concerto performance, Warren Lee sat down and played a Chopin Etude, you could see them, accomplished musicians all of them, looking on in wide-eyed amazement.

Prodigies are in themselves wonderful, of course, but they also tell us something about ourselves, and about all human life.

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