The New Zealand Herald
July 5, 2016
Intimate venue adds punch to tasty works
Pianist Henry Wong Doe has played brilliant Stravinsky and Hindemith with the ACO; tonight he transferred the same verve and vigour to Mozart's D minor Concerto.
Scholes and his orchestra shared the drama of its first movement, with beautifully turned woodwind playing and, while Wong Doe understood the swoon of Mozartian sighs, he clearly relished unleashing his full fury on two eccentric and wild Beethoven cadenzas.
His encore, an incandescent movement from Messiaen's Vingt Regards was a timely reminder of the mighty Messiaen feast that the NZSO brings to us this Saturday.
The Straits Times
August 6, 2015
Chang Tou Liang
PIano notes that sound like tinkling bells
There are many fine pianists giving concerts who are not household names just becuase they are not named Lang Lang. New Zealander Henry Wong Doe, Juilliard graduate and prize-winner in the Arthur Rubinstein, Busoni and Sydney International Piano Competitions, is among them. His debut recital in Singapore, which was not widely publicised, should have garnered a bigger audience.
He has an iron-clad technique that easily surmounted the most technically daunting pieces and is capable of bringing out myriad shades of the piano. Beginning with Beethoven's brief Sonata in F major (Op. 54) in two movements, he highlighted its stark contrasts with much purpose and care. The genteel minuet-like opening was upstaged by a procession of marching octaves. And a breathless perpetual motion blazed the way of its second movement without missing a step.
As if to change tact, his breezy account of LIszt's long-breathed Ricordanza (the ninth of 12 Transcendental Etudes) sounded almost improvised, its lyricism and singing tone enveloping the hall with a warm glow.
The New Zealand Herald
Auckland, New Zealand
June 23, 2015
ACO's corker performance: bold contrasts make for an electric concert
In the wake of three memorable Town Hall orchestral concerts featuring repertoire no more recent than 1940, Auckland Chamber Orchestra's Sunday programme reassured us that today's composers are alive, well and writing for classical big bands.
ACO's music director Peter Scholes had not only searched out Anna Clyne's 2009 Within Her Arms and Unsuk Chin's 2013 Graffiti, but placed them on either side of Hindemith's rarely heard Kammermusik No. 2.
This 1924 Piano Concerto was set off like a firecracker by the flamboyantly capable Henry Wong Doe, leading the hip players around him on a frisky game of musical tag.
While energies never let up on the musicians' part, Hindemith's harmonically spicy bonhomie did lose some of its firzz by the finale. However, we had been amply rewarded by a bittersweet slow movement, not to mention a devilishly witty scherzo that might have given Poulenc and his Parisian bon vivants cause for envy.
After a prodigiously taxing 20 minutes, Wong Doe enchanted us with a delicately spun rendition of Eve de Castro-Robinson's this liquid drift of light.
The New Zealand Listener
Auckland, New Zealand
December 4, 2014 (issue 3892)
Fine Things: Strong offerings from New Zealand and beyond
LANDSCAPE PRELUDES: Henry Wong Doe (Rattle)
This is one of the finest Kiwi composition compilations I've heard. Standouts include the meditative chordal ballade style of Gillian Whitehead's Arapatiki; the lively toccata of Lyell Cresswell's Chiaroscuro; Jack Body's understated drollery in The Street Where I Live for piano and narrator; and the two-part counterpoint of line and chords in the pointillism of Machine Noises with its neatly acronymic ending, by Michael Norris, my favourite younger writer. There's not one dud among Doe's imaginitively intepreted lot.
New York, USA
October 19, 2014
Artistic Quality: 9/10 rating
Sound Quality: 9/10 rating
Landscape Preludes consists of 12 piano pieces composed between 2003 and 2007 by 12 different composers from New Zealand. They were commissioned by the New Zealand-based pianist Stephen De Pledge, who also gave their premieres. Their first CD recording, however, features another pianist, Henry Wong Doe, a New Zealand native based in the United States. While the works draw inspiration from different aspects of New Zealand’s varied and colorful landscape, you don’t have to know that to approach the music on its own terms–with perhaps one exception: Jack Body’s The Street Where I Live, which superimposes a steadily intoned spoken text on top of the piano writing. To be honest, the “speaking pianist” genre works best when the vocal and instrumental components interact and give each other space; here, however, the unvarying consistency of the spoken part becomes predictable and fatiguing. But the selections are appreciably varied, well crafted for piano, and offer much of interest.
In his booklet notes, Doe mentions that he learned the pieces quickly, and without referring to De Pledge’s recordings (available on YouTube). He certainly seems to have mastered the notes and assimilated the music to the highest standards. No doubt that other composers are lined up at Doe’s door.
Off The Tracks
Wellington, New Zealand
September 22, 2014
A collaboration between Rattle Records, Victoria University Press and the Wallace Arts Trust this collection of Landscape Preludes features the exquisite playing of Henry Wong Doe as he glides and surges through work by a dozen of New Zealand’s best contemporary composers. Hear him alternate between strident and playful, dancing across the lines of Jenny McLeod’s Tone Clock XVIII, Victoria Kelly’s Goodnight Kiwi is gorgeous – pulling at heartstrings, issuing notes of nostalgia but elsewhere Henry Wong Doe finds humour as cat and mouse-like he jousts in the lovely little spaces around Jack Body’s voice as he recites a tale of buying a house and making a home on The Street Where I Live.
That idea of humour – a sound of humour – continues over Sleeper by John Psathas. It seems Psathas is on a roll currently, his commissioned pieces, soundtrack work and short compositions such as this all seeking to find and define new space, never repeating himself, always bringing in something new and fresh. Wong Doe’s cascades across the keys help to tell a beautiful and surprising story here.
There are pieces by Dame Gillian Whitehead (the opening Arapatiki – with its nocturnal stirrings) Ross Harris, Samuel Holloway and Gareth Farr. And Wong Doe is so respectful in his playing, bringing out the sound of each composer, their voice entwined in his playing. It’s a masterclass of playing styles, the equivalent of learning a new language to determine each piece and it therefore works as both a sampler to showcase Wong Doe’s skills and a fine cross-section of composing styles and standout pieces from some of New Zealand’s best-known contemporary composers; a must-have then for both fair-weather types and the anoraks.
Auckland, New Zealand
August 7, 2014
Painting by piano (2014): The art music of Henry Wong Doe
On the launch night Wong Doe only played two pieces, the first being Whitehead's Arapatiki which evokes a tidal estaury, the ebb and flow of water, and bird song.
This piece, in the context of the paintings around the walls, conjured up the synaesthetic relationship between the musical and visual arts and how they evoke landscape.
Wong Doe - whose debut album Horizon was paino music by Gareth Farr on Trust Records two years ago - also brought a physicality to the performance. Steve Garden's Wife Viky, a painter and sculptor, likened him to a cat pouncing on the keybaord which seemed apt. But the intensity of his playing in this brief recital and on the CD - focused on each individual note or cascades of melody - confirm why he has won so many awards and is an audience favourite here and overseas.
Wong Doe currently lives in New York (he also teaches in Pennsylvania) and is committed to 20th and 21st century composers.
In interpretations of exceptional understanding and often understatement, Henry Wong Doe takes you back to that time and - across these works - to landscapes which perhaps seemed more full of promise and possibility than how we might see them now.
This is the magic of art.
The New Zealand Herald
Auckland, New Zealand
July 26, 2014
Rating: Five stars
Verdict: A fascinating range of New Zealand landscapes magnificently caught, in a recording that no Kiwi CD player should be without.
It has been a long wait, but an amply rewarded one, for Henry Wong Doe's Landscape Preludes. This set of 12 New Zealand piano pieces has grown and triumphed on the concert stage in the decade since Stephen De Pledge made his first commission. Now, thanks to Rattle Records, with simpatico producer Kenneth Young and studio wizard Steve Garden, this iconic collection is available on CD, played by Henry Wong Doe.
Wong Doe is a pianist who tempers flamboyance with poetry: in Gillian Whitehead's Arapatiki, flames flicker among mellow, mysterious surroundings. When a virtuoso is called for, Wong Doe is your man.
Lyell Cresswell's Chiaroscuro streaks in brilliantly hued fury while the heavy industrial density that opens Michael Norris' Machine Noises sparks and fires. Dylan Lardelli's music can be testing, but Wong Doe ensures we sense a Bachian tangle under the meteorological malevbolence of Reign. Similarly, the pianist carefully streams and shapes the cycles of spilling out and retraction in Samuel Holloway’s volatile Terrain Vague.
Heard in its entirety, one can pick up special relationships between tracks. The slow-burn impressionism of Gareth Farr's A Horizon from Owhiro Bay finds echoes in the glistening sound of Eve de Castro-Robinson's this liquid drift of light. Wong Doe catches the brooding soliloquy of Ross Harris’ A landscape with too few lovers and enjoys bringing out those "deep earth gongs" that tremble under the surface of Jenny McLeod's Tone Clock XVIII.
There is mischievous humour in Sleeper by the high-profile John Psathas, which plays on three possible definitions of its title. In Jack Body’s The Street Where I Live, Wong Doe's piano flirts and skirts around the composer's own voice, whimsically extolling the joys of his Wellington home.
After a captivating 50 minutes of infinitely varied and fascinating "landscapes", Victoria Kelly's Goodnight Kiwi is the perfect conclusion. One of the first of the set to be written, this piece deals out a nostalgia of both time and place, designed to touch the Kiwi heart in all of us.
If you buy just one classical CD this year, make it Landscape Preludes.
London, United Kingdom
June 18, 2013
Auckland Chamber Orchestra shine in Stravinsky and Dean
A lack of confidence was certainly no problem for the soloist, New Zealand-born Henry Wong Doe. He approached the work with great clarity of touch, though could have perhaps done with a little more gradation of dynamics; his performance most came to the life in the barnstorming moments. The technical demands of the piece held no horrors for Wong Doe – the performance was remarkable for its accuracy of rhythmic attack. Despite his occasional Lang Lang-like stage gesturing, he and Scholes refused to sentimentalise the slow movement; the result was a stronger awareness of the work’s Baroque influences. Throughout, pianist and conductor joined forces to create a distinctive feeling of dialogue between piano and orchestra. It was no surprise to read that Wong Doe’s doctoral dissertation was on the influence of the player piano on Stravinsky and other 20th-century composers - there was a certain mechanical precision about it all. If the end result was sometimes a little clinically perfect, far better this than any kind of distorting romanticism. Furthermore, any suspicions of over-clinical characteristics of Wong Doe’s playing were dispelled by his encore, Gareth Farr’s The Horizon from Owhiro Bay, an impressionistic miniature played with extreme sensitivity and lightness of touch. This was a lovely concert putting Stravinsky in perspective in the context of the 20th century with the Auckland Chamber Orchestra on top form.