Feature on Debussy and Stravinsky

Jin Ju, Shanghai-born pianist appearing at Music in the Round
Jin Ju, Shanghai-born pianist appearing at Music in the Round

OUTSTANDING Shanghai-born pianist Jin Ju returns to Sheffield next Wednesday for the fourth time to give a Music in the Round concert. Playing a colourfully virtuosic programme, she will be getting her elastic fingers round Debussy’s 12 Études, Stravinsky’s Sonata (1924) and Ravel’s Miroirs.

Stravinsky was living in Paris when he penned his shortish (about 11 minutes) three-movement, neo-classical sonata, the date being to distinguish it from an earlier Tchaikovsky-ian effort in 1903-04 when Ravel began writing Miroirs, or Mirrors. Each of the work’s five movements reflect and is dedicated to member of Les Apaches, a group of ‘artistic outcasts’ as one of their number, pianist Ricardo Viñes, called his fellow gathering of radical young artists, poets, critics and musicians.

Ravel joined the group in 1900 and Viñes first performed the work in 1906.

Its best known movements are probably the third and fourth both of which the composer later orchestrated, in particular the latter, Alborada del Gracioso (Aubade of the Clowns), for the pianist a technically difficult piece with its Spanish themes woven into complex melodies. Jin Ju will be well and truly warmed by the time she reaches it as she starts her concert with Debussy’s fiendishly difficult 12 ‘Studies’ dedicated to the memory of Chopin who penned twice as many over two opus numbers.

One of the composer’s late works, he described the etudes as “a warning to pianists not to take up the musical profession unless they have remarkable hands.”

Now famous the world over, Jin Ju comprehensively revealed that she did on her first visit to Sheffield in 2005.