David Fung in BBC Music Magazine
June Issue 2019
Subtle, understated, or simply muted? Pianist offers restrained beauty in WPA debut
By Joe Banno
The young Australian pianist David Fung opened his Washington Performing Arts Terrace Theater recital on Saturday with some pretty ravishing Scarlatti. In three sonatas culled from the 550 late-career miniature masterpieces Scarlatti composed, Fung showed a true poetic sensibility. He offered crystalline phrasing that would not have been out of place on the harpsichord — an instrument he also happens to play — while drawing hushed, beautifully rounded tone from his Steinway. Interleaving those works with Scarlatti-inspired sonatas by contemporary composer Samuel Adams (son of John) — which offered witty deconstructions of the Baroque sonatas surrounding them — was a canny bit of programming, and Fung played the newer works with clear affection.
A similar element of poetry informed his exquisitely sculpted readings of Mozart’s Sonata No. 17 and Schubert’s “Wanderer Fantasie.” But there was a sense in this music that volume was intentionally subdued, and that the volatility and strutting grandeur that ripple through certain pages of the score were tamed to fit a polite, Classical conception of Schubert’s work, rather than a more robust, Romantic one. Fung’s understated interpretation certainly worked, but other pianists have conjured more edge-of-the-seat thrills in this music, without sacrificing the kind of rapt musing that Fung so memorably drew out in the introspective second section of the piece.
It was hard to predict what a subtle tone-painter like Fung would make of Rachmaninoff. But in the Op. 32 Preludes No. 8 and 10, there was a notable (if not exactly barnstorming) broadening of power and dynamic range. These pieces, too, benefited from Fung’s thoughtfulness and touchingly immediate way with phrasing, and he was fully inside the Russian composer’s idiom. Fung’s own arrangement of Ravel’s “La Valse” (augmenting Ravel’s solo version with material from the two-piano and orchestral versions) was more of a mixed bag — at times more episodic than flowing, at others more concerned with clarity than intoxicating atmosphere. But, more often than not, it was simply gorgeous.
Albany Symphony's Welcome Look at Mozart
By Joseph Dalton
"The generous dose of opera served to highlight the vocal quality of the piano concertos that followed. David Fung was soloist in the bright and cheerful Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488. The first cadenza felt like a game of cat and mouse, with a chase and teasing turns. His playing was detailed but always understated. Even the flowing scales in the finale came as a single breath of meditative calm."
FRANCO CENTER PIANO SERIES OPENS WITH INNOVATIONS
By Christopher Hyde
"One of the most unusual concerts in many a season opened the 12th annual piano series of the Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston Friday night. Its innovations were matched by the quality of the performances by pianist David Fung and Daniel Moody, countertenor.
The first half of the program was devoted to piano works with unusual (or zero) rhythmic patterns, beginning with the Mozart Sonata No. 5 in G Major, one of the complete Mozart sonata cycle that Fung is compiling for the Steinway “Spiro” high-resolution player piano.
It was followed by “Impressões Seresteiras,” W.374, by Heitor Villa-Lobos, a compilation of “street songs” in 3/4 time, which manages to be avant-garde and nostalgic at the same time.
The “Île de feu, 1” from “Four Studies in Rhythm” by Olivier Messiaen, has no bar lines at all, its rhythm being dictated by the feel of note patterns. Under Fung’s hands, it was a tour de force of technique, complete with one of the composer’s beloved bird calls (I think it was a blackbird).
Fung, who holds a doctorate from the Yale School of Music, and has taught there, prefaced each work with revelatory remarks. In describing his arrangement of Ravel’s “La Valse,” he noted that the work has been compared to Poe’s tale, “The Masque of the Red Death,” and occasioned a challenge to Ravel by choreographer Serge Diaghilev, who had commissioned the work. The duel, apparently, was never fought.
Whatever the work’s history, Fung’s arrangement captures its brooding nature perfectly, in a manner even more virtuosic than the popular two-piano transcription.
After intermission, Fung accompanied countertenor David Moody in works by Dowling, Handel, and contemporary William Bolcom, all which were thoroughly delightful. Countertenors combine the power of the male voice with the vocal range of a mezzo-soprano. They were most popular in heroic roles at the time of Purcell, but they seem to be making a welcome comeback nowadays. Moody is one of the best. He also showed a sense of humor in the very short Bolcom pieces, one of which consists of two lines: “I’ll never forgive you. For my behavior.”
Fung concluded the program with a brilliant interpretation of Schubert’s great “Wanderer” Fantasy in C Major, D. 760. After this grueling effort - Schubert himself and a hard time with it -Fung managed a spritely encore of a Scarlatti Sonata in D Minor."
Review: Pianist David Fung spices up a subdued Symphony Tacoma
By Rosemary Ponnekanti
"Maybe it was the Rialto Theater — suddenly live and demanding crisper vivacity than their usual Pantages home. Or maybe it was a reduced Mozart orchestra, something they’re not famous for. Whatever the case, Symphony Tacoma produced a concert Saturday night that went quickly from lush to lackluster, only spicing up at the end thanks to a witty combination of pianist David Fung and Beethoven. ...
Not so Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2, saved for last (a staging issue, probably) and definitely the best. Fung doesn’t make a big sound, but his wit and vivacity more than compensate. Sudden switches to piano, luxurious triplets, playful staccato runs that tiptoed into nothing made the first movement a joy, with the orchestra handling Beethoven’s mood swings with style. In the second movement, Fung gave his melodies an aching nostalgia, barely there, with a long pedal resonance that hinted at the Romanticism that was to come to Beethoven’s Vienna in the form of Gustav Mahler. A sweet oboe played lyrically over clouds of piano arpeggios into a spellbinding dialogue. The finale was another gallop, with Fung dancing his heels with glee and alternating quicksilver runs with comic pauses.
A Scarlatti sonata made an odd choice of encore, but showcased Fung’s highly original musicality."
Northern Lights Music Festival Finishes on a High
By Jim Cooper
"The Valentine's Day Concert by David Fung had the audience on its feet twice, once at intermission and again at the end. After playing the most beautiful Mozart Sonata No. 3 in B-flat Major, K 281, ... Fung really revealed why he is now considered a superstar, playing Schubert's Fantasie in C Major."
By Frank Daykin
"Pro Musicis continued its mission statement “Awaken the human spirit” in fine form last night with the recital of its 2015 award winner, Spanish violinist Francisco Fullana. The program was beautifully conceived, stunningly well-played, and thoughtful connections were drawn between the pieces on each half. His pianist, David Fung, was superb.
The program opened with a radiant interpretation of Bach’s Sonata for Violin and Keyboard in E major, BWV 1016. Mr. Fullana’s tone was appropriately scaled down (but never sterile), and he and Mr. Fung did not allow one single opportunity for dialog between the parts to go unexplored or unshaped. The technique and style were impeccable. In the final movement (which is preceded by a sorrowful cantilena), the sense of playfulness and joy of both players was vivid.
After intermission, Mr. Fullana and Mr. Fung resumed their collaboration with one of Mozart’s most experimental sonatas in what was still a relatively new genre: the piano and violin sonata, with his Sonata, K. 303 (293c) in C major. Mozart stealthily gives the impression of two movements for the price of one, with the opening Adagio followed by an Allegro molto, until one realizes that those tempi changes are but the different parts of one sonata-form movement. There follows the true second movement, a Tempo di Menuetto, courtly dances often being considered the only polite way to end a “scholarly” piece like a sonata. In this work, both players recapped the almost supernatural unity they had found in the Bach, with perfect matching of articulation and phrase shape. It was perfection, and I don’t use that word lightly. Too often players either minimize or trivialize these gems.
Then came the sprawling Sonata for Violin and Piano by Richard Strauss (E-flat major, Op. 18), a composer not always thought of for his chamber music. The magic of collaboration continued with superb sensitivity to every harmonic shift (they occur about every two seconds in this work), and great virtuosity from both players. Mr. Fullana’s Stradivarius really got its “lungs expanded” in the big dimensions required by the piece, and Fung never overbalanced, amid the monster piano part. The aggressive moments were handled well, but in the soaring songlike melodies the transfiguration was even better.
After a large ovation, Mr. Fullana and Mr. Fung played two of De Falla’s violin arrangements (from songs): Nana (a lullaby) andEl Paño moruno (the Moorish cloth, a metaphor for virginity!) with yearning authenticity.
Bravo to Pro Musicis for its track record, and to these three artists for elevating a room full of listeners seeking beauty."
Talent to Spare
By Clive O'Connell
"David Fung gave an incisive reading of the F Major Concerto, a work you would be lucky to hear once in a double-decade. His Mozart is no limpid aristocrat but a vital, even prickly individual with a turn for the idiosyncratic, like the Beethoven-heavy left-hand chords for the soloist that come out of nowhere in bars 82 and 86 of the first Allegro, and the oddly unsettling shape of the first two phrases of the Larghetto‘s main theme. Fung made interesting work of each paragraph, notably in the solidly argued initial movement but what impressed most was his fusion with the MCO; he’s an ideal soloist in his awareness of where he fits in to a concerto’s framework, which made his merging into the score’s activity after tutti passages and cadenzas a model of responsibility.
Even better came with the E flat work; but then, it’s more engaging in its material. Fung raised the aggression level slightly so that his initial entries came across with energizing brio. Still, his legato passage work proved admirable – evenly paced and set out with care for its crescendo/diminuendo potential – and throughout this and the preceding work his ornamentation was worked into the fabric with a sensibility that would have done credit to a player many years his senior. Of special note was Fung’s account of the first movement cadenza – Mozart’s own? – where the brusque power of the preceding development came into a kind of heightened focus. Across the whole work, Fung displayed an authority and decisiveness that made even the main body of the four-square finale a feast of elegantly contoured articulation."
Cleveland Orchestra with Michael Francis & pianist David Fung at Blossom (July 16)
By Daniel Hathaway
"David Fung, making both his Cleveland Orchestra and Blossom debuts, played the solo part with Apollonian clarity and understatement (sometimes vanishing momentarily into the orchestral texture). His expressive playing in the Andante was everything you could wish for, and the concluding Rondo was charming and buoyant.
The Blossom audience loved Fung’s performance and wouldn’t let him go. He finally returned to the Steinway for a dashing, infectious encore: the Presto from Mozart’s Piano Sonata in F, No. 2."