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Phoenix Story Concert Tour - Sydney Morning Herald
Different, so double take twice as rewarding
Pei-Jee and Pei-Sian Ng are two young, talented musicians with great stage presence, each playing a beautiful old cello with remarkable facility. And, by they way, they’re identical twins. As one audience member remarked, it’s a marketing department’s dream.
But can they play? The answer, thankfully, is yes.
The program opened with a duet by the 18th-century composer and cello virtuoso Jean Barriere. Barriere is obviously not a household name, but the rangy interwoven lines of his Sonata in G make for good listening. Then there is the novelty of playing spot the difference between the soloists, which becomes an absorbing exercise in distinguishing between the most subtle timbral variations. Pei-Jee’s and Pei-Sian’s performances slot together beautifully, but they are not the same. The whole is rich and rewarding.
After Barriere, the twins took turns, with Pei-Jee playing Chopin and Pei-Sian playing Rachmaninov, each partnered by pianist David Tong. Now the challenge for the listener was resisting the temptation to compare.
On the surface, Pei-Sian’s reading of the Rachmaninov was more engaging than Pei-Jee’s Chopin. Indeed, both cellist and pianist took on the grand gestures with great showmanship and the shamelessly seductive harmonic progressions of the last movement of Rachmaninov’s Sonata Op. 19 made it the ultimate crowd pleaser.
The balance between piano and cello in Chopin’s Sonata Op. 65 was not always ideal, but overall, the performance was fluent and persuasive, and Pei-Jee drew from his instrument some of the most beautiful sounds of the night in the lingering Largo.
The final work was a new commission from Elena Kats-Chernin called Phoenix Story. Although the musical elements were relatively simple – a rocky riff and a pentatonic melody – the repetition paid dividends, revealing a deeply satisfying range of moods and tone colours.
As the brothers Ng swapped phrases and effortlessly crashed through showers of notes the work became more and more compelling, like a novel you can’t put down. It’s a piece which, one imagines, will serve this unique duo well on the road to stardom.