Melvyn Tan

Piano & Fortepiano

At a glance

Melvyn Tan

Piano & Fortepiano

... the most thoughtful, elegant and refined of pianists... one of those marvellous concerts where everything seemed to illuminate everything else.
The Guardian

Biography —

Exploration, insight and imagination are vital ingredients in Melvyn Tan’s blend of artistic attributes. He established his international reputation in the 1980s with pioneering performances on fortepiano and continues to cast fresh light on music conceived for the piano’s early and modern forms. Tan possesses a profound understanding of his instrument’s history, its technical evolution and musical development. His performances of piano masterworks, whether on a late eighteenth-century fortepiano or today’s concert grand, penetrate the surface of interpretive traditions and received wisdom to reveal countless expressive nuances and rarely heard tonal contrasts. Acclaimed for the wit and poetry of his playing, Tan has also received ovations for his bold programming and exceptional ability to switch from fortepiano and modern piano, even in the same recital.

Tan’s mature musicianship is informed by extensive knowledge of the piano from the time of its invention three centuries ago and of its historic development. He has reached back in time to perform on everything from copies of early fortepianos to restored instruments associated with Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt and Brahms. In addition he has applied lessons learned on pianos from the past to conjure subtle new colours, fine details of articulation and delicate shadings from the modern concert instrument. Tan’s work as recitalist, chamber musician and concerto soloist has been heard at many of the world’s leading concert halls, from the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and Vienna Konzerthaus to London’s Wigmore Hall and Royal Festival Hall and New York’s Lincoln Center, and at the festivals of Salzburg, Edinburgh, La Roque d’Anthéron, at Bath’s Mozartfest and City of London festival.

In recent seasons Tan has connected with audiences across China and South East Asia, introducing many to their first experience of fortepiano and attracting young people to attend recitals on early and modern pianos. Others have discovered his work through his large discography, complete with ground-breaking fortepiano recordings of concertos by Mozart and Beethoven and Schubert’s Impromptus for EMI Classics, and releases on the Archiv, Deux-Elles, Harmonia Mundi, NMC and Virgin Classics labels. His latest recording,”Miroirs” (Onyx Classics 2019) embraces three centuries of keyboard style and traces some of the inspirations for Ravel’s ground-breaking works for piano, hailed by The Times as a “fascinating disc”. On his CD of Beethoven, Czerny and Liszt – Master and Pupil (Onyx Classics 2016) The Sunday Times commented that “The progression is from marvelousness to absolute delectation. His playing is always exquisite, but much more than that”.

Tan has performed as concerto soloist with such prestigious ensembles as the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Academy of St Martin’s in the Fields, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, Salzburg’s Camerata and Mozarteum orchestras, Melbourne Symphony and on tour with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. More recently, Tan has made regular appearances with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and with the London Chamber Orchestra, recording Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12 and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 on the orchestra’s LCO Live label.

Recent and forthcoming appearances include performances with the Wiener Academie Orchester in Vienna, a Beethoven Marathon in Belgium as well as recitals/tours in France, Italy and South Africa. Regularly appearing in venues across the UK his recent Wigmore Hall performance as part of Kevin Volan’s 70th Birthday celebrations was described by The Telegraph as a “triumph for him as much as Volans”.

In addition to his concert and recording activities Melvyn Tan gives masterclasses at the Villa Medici-Giulini in Italy and at the Yong Siew Toh and Aureus Conservatories of Singapore. He is also a keen and long-standing supporter of Buskaid, the outstanding South African music project in a Soweto township, listed by Gramophone Magazine as one of the world’s ten most inspiring orchestras.

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Reviews —

...the most thoughtful, elegant and refined of pianists...everything seemed to illuminate everything else.

The Guardian

a sensitive soloist of refined musicality. Tan shaped phrases with immaculate smoothness...a performance of inner polish.

Sydney Morning Herald

The ingenious Melvyn Tan opened a universe of charm, clarity and intimacy....He played the complex piece full of enlightening poetry, brilliant finesse, delicate suspense and absolute transparency.

Fuldaer Zeitung, Germany

Selected Discography —

Master & Pupil: Beethoven, Czerny, Liszt

Finely judged and ultimately very persuasive

The Guardian

Jonathan Dove: For an Unknown Soldier

a sparkling performance from Melvyn Tan and his colleagues

MusicWeb International
See full discography

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  • Nicola Semple