A piano recital which began with such a serene entrance from the soloist ended in whoops, cheers and a standing ovation. What happened in between was entirely due to the quietly impressive musicianship of Di Xiao.
She came to Birmingham Conservatoire from China several years ago, already possessed of a formidable technique. But what she has acquired during her time here is musical personality, a depth of insight and grasp of character which left a large audience stunned into silent awe at this Sunday morning coffee concert.
The occasion launched an 11-concert tour where DiDi will perform in some of Europe’s most prestigious concert-venues, an ambassador for Birmingham as Symphony Hall’s chosen “Rising Stars” representative in a scheme designed to bring the finest of young performers to international recognition.
A wide-ranging programme demanded remarkable stamina and resilience from this diminutive young lady, with only a short break midway through – the logistics of which were mishandled, unfortunately, with audience-members returning from their comfort-break throughout an engrossing opening movement to Beethoven’s late E major Sonata.
This was a remarkably perceptive reading, revealing aspects of this most quirky of works which many less committed practitioners might miss. It is almost as though technical brilliance is of little importance to Di Xiao: her dedication is to communication of the music’s very essence.
And this characterised her entire presentation: Mozart’s K332 both crisply Scarlattian and operatically fragrant, movements from Albeniz’s Iberia and Ravel’s Miroirs colourfully delineated.
The biggest surprise was DiDi’s charming, humorous shaping of Nielsen’s child-driven Humoreske-Bagatelles. A rare Sibelius Impromptu was the encore, but I do wish she had included a Chinese piece: her avowed aim is to bridge Eastern and Western cultures.