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Review of David Fung's “Evening Conversations”

By Gary Lemco
Audiophile Audition

Originally issued in 2006, this recital recorded 27-29 March 2006 has been reprocessed, using virgin polycarbonate and alloy in a German audiophile pressing that producer Bob Attiyeh claims will “bring you sound as close to the live magic in the concert hall as possible.” The original reviews of Evening Conversations proved quite favorable, with critic James Harrington of the American Record Guide’s commenting that his “reviewing process has produced an overall favorite, and that is David Fung. . .[whose] playing impressed me for its phrasing and musicality.” For me, the recital’s variety and breadth of palette rivals the kind of pianistic spectrum the late Shura Cherkassky would champion.

I concur that Fung (b. 1983) elicits some exquisite sounds from his Steinway instrument, brilliantly captured by Producer and Recording Engineer Bob Attiyeh. The recital itself presents almost limitless opportunities for Fung to display varieties of touch and attack, although his main ethos lies in the Romantic spirit. The 1978 Eight Memories in Watercolor by Tan Dun, miniatures with pearly and sometimes flippant colors, remind us of Debussy Etudes or crisp moments in Bartok strategies, insofar as Dun utilizes native Hunan folk songs or original tunes rife with exotic forms of Western harmony. “Ancient Burial” proceeds with a hesitancy we know from Debussy’sDe pas sur la neige, emerging later in resonant tones like Debussy’s massive companion prelude, La Cathedrale engloutie. 

Pearly eroticism infiltrates Chopin’s Nocturne in C-sharp Minor, with its abbreviated allusion to Chopin’s F Minor Concerto. Anyone familiar with the film classic The Pianistwill embrace this performance as authentic. Fung has an immediate grasp of the large gestures in Rachmaninov as well as his tender rhetoric. The A Minor (No. 8) flashes by in mercurially bravura strokes. No. 9 (Allegro moderato) in A Major receives the kind of passionate articulation that it deserves, having too often been passed by in Preludessurveys. Most of us know the epic B Minor Prelude as “The Return,” from Rachmaninov’s conversation with Moiseiwitsch. The last in this group, the G-sharp Minor, imitates some of the bariolage of the violin, anticipating the fluttering elements in the famous Op. 43 Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Like Rachmaninov the composer and pianist, Fung has a clear fondness for Schumann, in poetic evidence via the nostalgic Arabesque and the ingenuous set of Children’s Scenes.

The “Classical” side of Fung’s talent, his capacity for crisp, brilliant resonance and direct phraseology, shines in the Mozart Fantasie and the three sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti. The so-called “Minuet” Sonata, Kk. 34, enjoys a music-box sonority, its runs glistening. The famous Sonata Kk 141 gives a potent glimmer of Fung’s penchant for Spanish guitars in fierce staccati and bold stretti. The recital concludes with the relatively expansive Sonata Kk 32, the “Aria” that eloquently testifies to the galantsensibilities of the Age of Reason.