Frets and Hammers and Strings! Oh My! | A Review of Ep. 6

What a pleasure it was to welcome back Pianist James Zong and Guitarist Yunjia Liu for round six of the finals for The Talent Both artists performed solo and were broadcast live from the Lady Marigold Southey Performance Studio at 7pm on Tuesday November 15.

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James was the first of the two finalists to perform, presenting three works.

He began with a piece by French Impressionistic composer Claude Debussy. L’isle joyeuse, (The Joyous Island) was inspired by Watteau’s painting L’Embarquement de Cythère. The painting depicts a group of travellers ready to depart to a mythical island.  The opening trill is said to resemble the boarding call to depart, the journey, in the case of James was an enjoyable one. The constant rippling of notes, cascading sequences and trills seemed effortless in their execution.

Following the Debussy presented a solo piano arrangement of Dance of the Paper Umbrellas by Contemporary Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin. The inspiration for Dance of the Paper Umbrellas was a visit by Kats-Chernin to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. Following this she wished to create an uplifting piece, filled with wonder and magic possibilities. It is an homage to all children who dare to let their imaginations wonder. James did a sublime job of interpreting the music as he invited us to dance and surrender to the weightless soundscape.

James concluded his set with Mephisto Waltz No. 1 by Franz Liszt, an example of 19th Century Programmatic music. The first of a set of four waltzes by Liszt, the composer intended the work to tell the story of a wedding feast. To read more about the story behind the waltz click here.

James’ inspiration piece was Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben Opus 40 (A Hero’s Life) as recorded live by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Mariss Jansons. Unfortunately was unable to be played due to time constraints.


The second performer of the evening was Yunjia Liu who chose to present a single work for solo guitar which comprised of four movements.


The four movements of Koyunbaba – Suite for Guitar, Op. 19 by Italian composer Carlo Domeniconi were entrancing. The suite draws on Turkish influences, each movement representing a different character or mood.  

Yunjia’s playing was an example of fine artistry. The immense contrast created across the piece was something particularly special. At times, when the music demanded it, a strident sound was used, especially evident when lyrical melodies were juxtaposed against block sforzando chords.

The more delicate passages at pianissimo reeled the listener in, the ear longing to savour each intimate note. The power of silence was evident, Yunjia holding us in her grasp as we awaited the next passage to begin. It was an experience no longer bound by time and the worries of the everyday, a captivating moment indeed. Brava Yunjia!

Yunjia’s inspiration piece was Le Jardin d’Adonis, composed and performed by French-Algerian guitarist Pierre Bensusan.

The podcast is now available. We hope you can tune in next Tuesday at 7pm to hear our next two finalists, Violinist Aaron Ch’ng and Mezzo-soprano Dannielle O’Keefe.






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