Review: 2024 Waterman series piano recital – Dances from Many Lands - Winter Garden, Ilkley - Sunday, June 23

Ilkley’s piano enthusiasts, young and old, constituted an enthusiastic audience for the second Waterman series piano recital on Sunday afternoon.

This annual extension to the Wharfedale Festival allows the star young pianists from the previous year’s festival the chance of a public performance in the company of professional mentors. It is named for Dame Fanny Waterman who devoted her life to music education and encouraging the young on their musical journeys.

The Piano Ambassador to the festival, Yuanfan Yang, began the concert with some sparkling playing of excerpts from Schumann’s Carnaval – full of both fire and tenderness. The junior medal winner, Allan Zeng, followed with some crisp and well decorated Bach, a vigorous Chopin Mazurka and a delectably witty and eccentric performance of one of Shostakovich’s Fantastic Dances.

It was then the turn of the guest pianist, Siqian Li who began her programme with the touching little waltz that Schubert composed for a friend’s wedding, followed by the rousing minuet from his late G major sonata and finishing with the explosion of concentrated virtuosity that is demanded by Liszt’s first Mephisto waltz.

Yuanfan entertained the audience at the beginning of the second half by improvising at request sometimes eccentric combinations of dance style and theme, including an 1812 cha-cha and a rock and roll Harry Potter theme! The senior medal winner, Sean de Senna Fernandes Godden, already a student at the Guildhall, then demonstrated his maturity of approach with two contrasted but heartfelt Chopin Mazurkas, rounding off with an expansive account of the Cuban composer, Lecuona’s Malagueña.

Siqian Li stayed in the Spanish-American vein with a vividly contrasted performance of Ginastera’s Danzas Argentinas, culminating in an explosive account of the final gauchos’ dance. The concert was brought to a rousing conclusion by Yuanfan and Siqian playing a number of four-hand piano favourites including a beautifully expressed Berceuse from the Dolly suite and a genuinely exciting performance of Piazzolla’s Libertango.

Following this excellent event, this welcome addition to music in Ilkley is sure to find an increasing and appreciative audience in future years.

Front row from left to right: Freddie Johnston, Yuxuan Feng, Austin Rossiter, Macy Wu, Allan Zeng , Kaiden Guo, Sid Kahn and Miles Hung. Back row: Siqian Li and Yuanfan Yang Front row from left to right: Freddie Johnston, Yuxuan Feng, Austin Rossiter, Macy Wu, Allan Zeng , Kaiden Guo, Sid Kahn and Miles Hung. Back row: Siqian Li and Yuanfan Yang (Image: submitted)

* The Waterman Piano Day is an annual event that takes place in Kings Hall, Winter Garden and carries the name of Yorkshire's most illustrious piano teacher and co-founder of the Leeds International Piano Competition, Dame Fanny Waterman.

Linked to the Wharfedale Festival of Piano this is an initiative to bring top UK based young concert pianists to Ilkley to perform, inspire and educate, very much the ethos of The British and International Federation of Festivals.

The morning event saw 10 young pianists, all festival participants, playing to the public and receiving encouragement and top tips on aspects of their performances from Yuanfan Yang (the Festival Piano Ambassador) and guest concert pianist Sqian Li, both past participants of The Leeds competition.

The driving force behind the series is Addingham resident Linda Wellings who has worked with the Leeds competition for many years and who organised Dame Fanny's move to Ilkley in her final months, just after her 100th birthday.