Daniel Tong

Piano

Brahms with Endymion Ensemble - Kings Place
Madelaine Jones, 26/11/12 - Bachtrack

....."The final item was the Trio in E flat major, with the return of the other Daniel (Daniel Tong) and two new faces to the stage, seasoned Endymion members Krysia Osostowicz (violin) and Stephen Stirling (horn). The performance of the group, individually and collectively, was outstanding from start to finish. The tricky off-beat rhythms of the first movement were navigated with apparent ease, the technical problems sidestepped completely to give an ethereal, timeless quality one can only imagine is what Brahms intended before pen ever had to be put to paper and the flexibility of a stream of music confined by the strictures of notation.

The second movement zipped along with delightful vim, the slower middle section allowing the mellow horn and passionate violin to intertwine with a melancholy beauty. From melancholy to abject despair, the third movement plunged into the absolute depths of darkness, Tong’s soft but thick and rounded sound in the opening setting the mood for the piece perfectly. The misty tension was unbroken from the first note to the last, each painful dissonance hanging heavily in the air, melting into a less twisted but no less tortured resolution. The final movement was a terrifically high-spirited way the finish the concert, each silence resounding with tongue-in-cheek humour, each note springing ecstatically from the last until the audience barely allowed the piece to finish before applauding rapturously."

Elgar Explored admirably illuminated the composer's diversity
Paul Driver, 18/11/12 - Sunday Times

Wye Valley Chamber Music Festival's "Elgar Explored " at Kings Place, Nov 12, curated by Daniel Tong.
 
Hall One at Kings Place, that, glittering, commercial yet heavily artistically committed big building near King's Cross, is a place where classical music proliferates. There are one-off programmes, of course, but concerts come mainly in thematic blocks, which can vary from a weekend or a week long to a month or even a year. This has been the year of Brahms Unwrapped, and next year it is Bach Unwrapped - a monumental survey of his oeuvre, recalling Radio 3's week of solid Bach not long ago. Just as that venture stimulated an enormous, widespread response, so Kings Place has found that more tickets have already been sold for the Bach year than for the Brahms year currently ending.
 
One can be sceptical about wholesale, discounted, cash-and-carry approaches to music, and prefer programmes that are like  works of art in themselves, but the pieces get played and listened to just the same, and the vast popularity of Bach (clearly  seen as a kind of gold standard of music) is something to celebrate.
 
Elgar is another profoundly popular figure, and the three concerts and study day forming Elgar Explored, the latest, comparatively modest Kings Place block, was bustlingly supported. The Elgar Society sponsored this event, which was originated by the Wye Valley Chamber Music Festival and its pianist director, Daniel Tong. The players, some of the best around, appeared as the London Bridge Ensemble for the first concert and, for the third, as the Wye Valley Festival Orchestra, into which was dispersed, it turned out, the whole Elias Quartet. They were at the forefront for the opening item, Elgar's Introduction and Allegro, Op 47, that greatest of all string pieces. Its utterly unacademic revisiting of the baroque concerto grosso sets a "concertino" string quartet and a "ripieno" group (here just 10 players) in an endlessly subtle interplay, to which the Elias lent an extra note of stylishness.
 
I was surprised at how comfortably the small hall accommodated the massed string sound - I have seldom heard such an articulate account of the piece (directed by Simon Crawford-Phillips) - and, indeed, how plausibly it lent itself to the full orchestral range of the Cello Concerto in the second half. Iain Farrington's reduction of the score struck me as entailing minimal loss, and the chamber clarity of this heartwarmingly sensitive realisation, with the soloist Alice Neary, and Crawford-Phillips again conducting, as pure gain. Farrington's orchestration of the 10-minute Concert Allegro, Op 46, for piano, which Elgar himself meant to adapt in this way, was well done, and worth an outing, perhaps, but Tong's keyboard eloquence could not disguise the indifferent nature of the material. It is no substitute for the piano concerto Elgar repeatedly attempted, but never achieved. The unfamiliar, even incongruous, strains of piano and orchestra in an Elgarian idiom only made the augustly lyrical cello line of the succeeding concerto seem the more inevitably his expressive mode.
 
This was an odd, if interesting, programme: the quite early, magical Serenade for Strings, Op 20, was given back to back with Op 47, as though for scholastic reasons. A focus on late works - the 1918-19 chamber triptych of the E minor Violin Sonata and String Quartet, and the A minor Piano   Quintet - was a unifying theme, but the Quintet, with its edgy introvertedness and ghostly evanescences, was preceded by the salty straightforwardness of the five Sea Pictures, Op 37, here performed by the impassioned baritone Ivan Ludlow, with Elgar's piano accompaniment played by Tong: a rare outing for this version.
 
There were further novelties in the form of Paul Adrian Rooke's reconstructions of three separate, amiable short movements for piano trio that Elgar left unfinished, the second a minuet and trio he renamed Rosemary, the third an arrangement of his Empire March. The Quintet, with its very subtlety and quietude, blew such anecdotage away - this was an intense reading by the London Bridge Ensemble. But Elgar Explored admirably illuminated the composer's diversity.

A Spell Binding Account - Daniel Tong, St John’s, Smith Square
Bob Briggs, Dec 10 - MusicWeb International

Schubert: Moments Musicaux, D780 (1823/1828) (Nos. 1, 4 and 6) Piano Sonata in A, D959 (1828)

"This lunchtime, St John’s was an oasis of calm, set in the middle of the student protest at the rise in tuition fees which the House of Commons was due to vote on, just round the corner, later in the day. But Schubert wove his magical spell and all was forgotten as Tong delivered a spell binding account of the penultimate Sonata of the Austrian master. After a brief, but forceful, call to arms, Tong settled into the first movement, bringing out the inherent melancholy of the music, with lyricism to the fore, and a good sense of the progress of the music. His vision was clear and his purpose well delineated. What impressed was that the climax was a logical part of the whole, not a peak to be reached and overdone. The slow movement was in the same mode, melancholic and withdrawn, beautifully shaded and understated. This was a fine interpretation. The scherzo brought some light relief, and some very light playing to match it. Tong seemed able to make the piano speak whilst hardly touching the keys. The finale starts with a theme which is reminiscent of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and as Tong touched the keyboard to start, the sun came out and lit up the room. But this isn’t a big joyous finale, for there are problems and at the end Schubert breaks his theme into segments and destroys any hopes of a happy ending. Tong withheld any chance of a joyous conclusion as he defiantly hammered out the final chords. This was a fine performance, distressing in its agonised loneliness. Splendid.

The three pieces from the Moments Musicaux, D780 brought a mood of expectation to the hall, these small pieces proving to be the perfect aperitif to the main course. Without them the emotion of the Sonata would have been unbearable."

Schumann Liederkreis - Sonimage
Nigel Simeone, May 2011 - International Record Review

“The Liederkreis, Op. 24 is sung by Ivan Ludlow with Daniel Tong at the piano. Ludlow has a beautiful bass-baritone voice and excellent diction. He sings these songs with intelligence and a fine sense of drama, well matched by Tong…”

If you're after an all Bridge disc ... all in excellent performances, then look no further
Andrew McGregor, 13/8/11 - BBC Radio 3 CD Review

BAX: Piano Quintet in G minor; BRIDGE: Piano Quintet in D minor - Ashley Wass (piano)/The Tippett Quartet Naxos 8.572474
BRIDGE: Piano Quintet in D minor; Three Sketches; Phantasie in F minor for string quartet; Pensiero; Allegro appassionato (H82); Sonata for Violin & Piano; Spring Song - London Bridge Ensemble Dutton Epoch CDLX 7254

"two pretty excellent recordings"

"[LBE] emphasise the links with Faure's French Romanticism"

"The way they keep the work flowing through that mysterious middle section and the lovely lyricism of some of the playing make this a persuasive alternative..."

"a fine performance"

"if you're after an all Bridge disc ... all in excellent performances, then look no further"

Heinz Holliger in Profile: Souvenirs and Fairytales
Ken Carter - MusicWeb International, March 11

Curator: Christoph Richter -  at King's Place, London, 23rd March 2011
Background note from agency: As part of this concert, Christoph Richter and Daniel Tong performed Schumann’s Five Pieces in Folk Style, Op. 102
 
“In contrast, the five Pieces in Folk Style were played in the same room as oneself, as it were. The difference was thrilling and warming. Daniel Tong's piano was a presence by one's side. The sounds were immediate; the playing was robust; the phrasing was marked. In the right sense, the playing was dramatic. Suddenly, into the room came the striking presence(s) of Florestan and Eusebius. The emotional contrast, rightly, constituted the shape of each piece: its emotion was its form. Reciprocally, Christoph Richter's cello played in partnership with the mellow passion and rich hints of depth that characterise his instrument. This was the culmination as well as, as it happened, the end of the evening.”

Frank Bridge has been well served by this disc
Jonathan Woolf - Fanfare, Mar/Apr 2011

"Violinist Benjamin Nabarro plays [the violin sonata] with considerable authority and pianist Daniel Tong negotiates every difficulty with absolute control” 

Burnished Eloquence as well as a Robust Humour
Richard Whitehouse - Classical Source, April 11

Heinz Holliger In Profile - Kings Place, London, 23-26 March 2011
Curator: Christoph Richter
 
“Rounding off this first evening was Schumann’s Fünf Stücke im Volkston (1849) for cello and piano, perhaps the most varied and certainly the best balanced of his sets of miniatures, given here with a burnished eloquence as well as a robust humour by Richter and Daniel Tong.
 
The second evening, Darkness and Infinity, accordingly investigated deeper as well as darker musical waters. Following the Berio-like rhythmic genuflection of Holliger’s Trema (1981) for solo violin, incisively played by Cantoreggi, the mellifluous ease of Clara Schumann’s Drei Romanzen (1853) for violin and piano was the more pronounced – elegantly rendered by Cooke and Tong, and a reminder of a compositional talent which scarcely allowed itself to flower further” 

A Classy Showing by Ensemble's Pianist, Daniel Tong
Andrew Achenbach, Dec 10 - Gramophone

"Another generous Bridge Helping from this sensitive and stylish outfit" 

"the poetry, flexibility and ardour displayed by these gifted players held me captive from first note to last"

"don’t hesitate for a moment - and fingers crossed for more Bridge from this exemplary team!"

"in all four pieces, Daniel Tong tenders immaculate support. The ensemble’s pianist also makes a classy showing in the Three Sketches (1906), his generous rubato in “rosemary” both apposite and disarming"

Text of full review here

"Frank Bridge Violin Sonata and Piano Quintet" Dutton Epoch label CDLX 7254

IRR Reviews London Bridge Ensemble's Latest Release
Richard Whitehouse, Oct 10 - International Record Review

“The London Bridge Ensemble’s follow up to its previous disc (reviewed in May 2008) duly extends its coverage of Frank Bridge’s chamber music over his first phase of creativity …..This phase is largely encapsulated by the piano quintet…..… Especially notable is the insight this ensemble instils into the emotionally inward transitions either side of the opening movement’s tempestuous development, as well as those between which Bridge has adeptly embedded the Scherzo within the slow movement - after which the finale combines passions with refined eloquence on its way to a heady conclusion. A fine performance…."
 
“Spacious and realistic sound, with informative notes by [Paul] Hindmarsh, enhance another recommendable release from this fine ensemble."

"Frank Bridge Violin Sonata and Piano Quintet" Dutton Epoch label CDLX 7254

Daniel Tong Turns these Little Lovelies with Real Sensitivity
Rob Barnett Sept 10 - MusicWeb International

"The disc has been assembled with a practised eye to variety and to listening to the disc all through. Michael Ponder's engineering brings the listener front-seat close to the players. The blood-rushing triumphant romance of the [Frank Bridge] Piano Quintet is magnificently put across by London Bridge Ensemble.........

................After such torrid emotions and tumultuous striving the [Frank Bridge] Three Sketches are charming, shapely and familiar miniatures with a hint of what we later associate with the manner of Mayerl, Chopin and Godowsky. Daniel Tong turns these little lovelies with real sensitivity. "

Full review available here

Frank Bridge Songs and Chamber Music, Dutton Epoch
Gramophone

"Tong, whose cultured pianism affords unqualified pleasure throughout"

Derby Chamber Music: Alec Frank-Gemmill, Florence Cooke, Daniel Tong
The Derby Telegraph, 10/3/10

"Lennox Berkeley's Trio got a beautifully turned performance combining muscularity and elegance, passion and thoughtfulness, with the concluding set of variations sharply characterised"

"Florence Cooke and Daniel Tong played Beethoven's A minor Violin Sonata Op 12 no 2. They brought a fine sense of playfulness to the first movement and quiet dignity to the sombre recesses of the second"

Jeremy Thurlow's horn trio Orion, receiving its second performance....... A very impressive piece"

"Brahms's Horn Trio is one of his most deeply personal, and the players dug deep into its many expressive layers. ....their power and drive in the second and fourth movements offset their profoundly searching treatment of the third movement's sorrow and introspection"

Alec Frank-Gemmill (French Horn) and Daniel Tong (piano) - Feb 2010
Ben Ridler

"There was the added pleasure on this occasion of hearing, as one rarely does, the French horn as the featured solo instrument"

"the result was an imaginative and varied evening of contrasting colours and moods"

"Daniel Tong’s finely calibrated performance of Beethoven’s Sonata in F sharp Op.78... added depth and range to the programme"

Full review

A Most Memorable Recital
Robert Matthew-Walker - Musical Opinion

"an astonishingly successful occasion, in which Jennifer Pike was partnered by Daniel Tong."
 
"Elgar's Sonata received a deeply musical performance was both musicians' total grasp of this fine yet demanding composition. A most memorable recital."

A Natural-born Stylist....Uncommon Panache, Fluidity and Spontaneity
Douglas Cooksey - Classical Source

"For once one really had the sense that both players were so in tune and responsive to each other that they were able to play together with a rare sense of freedom."
 
"What was rather remarkable – whether in the elliptical and elusive Debussy sonata, or the almost nightclub-like accompaniment to the fourth of Prokofiev’s Melodies, or the richly-voiced Brahms – was the way in which Daniel Tong succeeded unobtrusively and with the minimum of fuss in finding the individual tone of voice for each of these very different pieces. A natural-born stylist."
 
"...playing with uncommon panache, fluidity and spontaneity; they achieved a smouldering volatile intensity entirely appropriate, the piece’s rapid swings of mood and tempo caught on the wing. Edge-of-seat stuff and totally convincing."
 
"Tong’s accompaniment was particularly remarkable here: full-toned, rich, fluid but never heavy or hectoring, an object lesson in how to find the right tone of voice in this music."

Not the Notes which Count, but the Way You Play Them
The Evening Standard

"It's not the notes which count, but the way you play them. Tong displayed a versatile touch. Sally Beamish's Piano Sonata had golden clusters in the lento and a roaring bass in the presto"

Much Musicality to Offer....He Will Go Far
David Allenby - Musical Opinion

"Daniel Tong was relaxed yet involved, and contributed the greater part of the atmosphere to each of the performances. Particularly impressive was his handling of the Janáček, where the busy textures and pungent ostinati needed careful balancing with the violin. There was much thought given to the internal weighting of chords, such as in the Adagio of the Brahms Sonata, and to the characterisation of groups of material in the Lutoslawski which created a febrile tension to the performance as a whole."
 
"This is an accompanist who has much musicality to offer, without hogging the show. He will go far."