Feb 01, 2013 - 5:03 PM EST
Sheng Cai, Pianist "Franz and Cai Wow Friday audiences"
Ted Shaw, arts writer
Saturday, Feb 01, 2013 - 6:00 PM EST
Last but certainly not least among the candidates vying for the post of music director with the Windsor Symphony…Franz(Conductor) was helped in his efforts by the performance of young Chinese-Canadian pianist Sheng Cai.
The two paired up for Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24, considered by many as the apotheosis of the classical art form.
The nearly capacity audience at the morning concert Friday had come to hear the Mozart, and they weren’t disappointed.
The highlight naturally was the Mozart.
Born in China, Cai emigrated to Toronto with his family when he was 11 and almost immediately began to turn heads, winning competition after competition. He was the youngest ever to win both the Toronto and the Montreal symphony piano contests.
His playing was punctuated with big, tomato-ripe notes and gorgeously shaped passage work. The reflective second movement showed great sensitivity, but he no less impressive in the third movement variations which alternate between turbulence and calm.
His encore was equally thrilling.
Barrie Examiner Monday, January 28, 2013 9:22:16 EST PM
Sheng Cai, pianist - "Talent that puts Canada on the map"
Monday, January 28, 2013 9:22:16 EST PM
A pianist who is possibly better than Glenn Gould. This is how 24-year-old pianist, Sheng Cai, was introduced to his audience at the Georgian Music concert on Sunday afternoon.
Certainly his biography is impressive. At the age of fifteen Sheng Cai made his debut with the Toronto Symphony. Since then he has concertized all over North America, as well as in China, England, Russia, and the Czech Republic.
He has also been a prize winner in numerous international piano competitions and made recordings for the CBC. It was for good reason that the crowd at Central United Church settled into their seats with heightened anticipation of a wonderful musical event about to take place.
The program he set out to perform turned out to have been “custom created” for this Barrie audience. The community here had made requests to concert organizers as to specific pieces they would like to hear performed.
In a brilliant display of versatility, Sheng Cai chose every piece on his program from this list of requests. Every piece was a well-loved favorite.
First was Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Sheng Cai’s restrained and controlled playing of that famous first movement created an instant “space” with its hushed intimacy.
His command of dynamics and mood became fully apparent as he made the transition to the playfulness of the second movement and the tempestuousness of the third.
Especially delightful were moments when his choice of balance and voicing managed to bring fresh ways of listening to the very well-known piece.
His next choice, Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata is also well-loved. The hushed opening theme was imaginative and full of suspense. Again, confident shifts in tempo and thoughtful voicing created for his audience new ways to listen.
The hymn-like second movement and the stormy third made obvious, again, Sheng Cai’s expressive talent.
After intermission, he took a turn into impressionism with a set of pieces by Claude Debussy. In Pagodes, he offered the sonorous sounds of a Javanese Gamelan orchestra.
After a magical conclusion, he skillfully conjured up the delightful sounds of Spain with La soiree dans Granade.
The wonderful sounds of a rainstorm were next with the piece Jardins sous la pluie.
Then the program turned romantic once more with Chopin’s Ballade No. 1. At times warm and eloquent, at times openly exuberant, it was a clean and precise display of virtuosic piano playing.
Unflagging in energy, Sheng Cai concluded his performance with the dazzling Islamay: Oriental Fantasy by Balakirev, and, in response to a most enthusiastic ovation, an encore, The Lark by Glinka.
Glenn Gould? Debatable, but definitely an impressive artist in his own right.
Toronto Star by William Littler:
This is a young man with real talent…from a clear, singing tone to a subtle sense of rubato to a judicious choice of tempi......Young pianist impresses!
Birmingham News of Alabama by Michael Huebner:
With great confidence, temperamental piano, impressive for its bravura…gave more lucidity, breath, color and power.
Cleveland Plain Dealer by Donald Rosenberg:
By contrast, Cai revealed much of the piece’s spirit, capturing both the circus aura and endearing qualities(Stravinsky)...persuasive in Haydn which received a fine array of dynamics and nuanced details.
Lindsay Post by Peter Milner
Sheng Cai played Bach with impeccable articulation and brilliant execution of the rapid chromatic passages, his sinewy performace maintained pace, energy and power throught …Scriabin with similar technical skill but also feeling for its colour and romanticism.
Ming Press by Ran Guo:
Depth of interpretation in music and maturity beyond his age… Rarely to be seen among talented pianists today.
By Mike Youds
Daily Staff Reporter of BC Kamloops News
Sheng cai ' Old warhorse' a stallion in young hands
A brilliant young pianist, a soothing string-orchestra interlude and a sweeping symphonic outpouring rewarded a Kamloops Symphony audience Saturday.
Edward Grieg's Concerto for Piano Op. 16 in A Minor is considered a staple among pianists, often described as an old "warhorse" along the lines of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Sheng cai, a Shanghai-born Canadian pianist gave it a fresh sparkle, his hands seeming to float efforltlessly over the keys in quieter moments, his whole body quaking with force during strident parts.
Seldom do guest performers step outside of the program, but Cai wasn't shy as he bowed to a standing ovation.
" Well, why not?" he said he said affably before sitting back down to play an encore.
Celebrated pianist Sheng Cai played two Chopin pieces in which the audience broke out into spontaneous applause.
Eleanor Friedland, president , Associates of the Toronto Symphony Ochestra
Our audience was entranced throught this performance by pianist Sheng Cai... we are certain that Sheng Cai has a brilliant future ......a magnificent piano recital!