Robin Zebaida Performing Russian Masterworks, Presented by CNConcerts – Shatin Town Hall, Cultural Activities Hall, 7:30 PM, August 2, 2015


ScriabinSonata No, 4 in F# Major, Op 30—1. Andante, 2. Prestissimo volando
        Two Poems, Op 32  1. Andante Cantabile, 2. Allegro, conn eleganza, con fiducia
        Sonata No. 5, Op 53
        Vers la flamme, Op 72
        Fantasie in b minor, Op 28


13 Preludes, Op 32
         Allegro vivace in C major, No. 1
         Moderato in F major, No. 7
         Moderato in G major, No. 5
         Lento in b minor, No. 10
         Allegro in g# minor, No. 12


    Three Pieces:
          Barcarolle, Op 10, No. 3
          Humouresque, Op 10, No. 5
          Elegie, Op 3, No. 1

      10 Preludes Op 23
          Largo in F# minor, No. 1
         Largo in G♭ major, No. 10
          Maestoso in B♭ major, No. 1



There are just way too many ways to find out about a concert in Hong Kong and it’s easy to miss a notice until it’s too late. I only happened to see a poster for this performance as I was walking by some posters for concerts. I stopped and looked at them and when I saw the programme for this one, with the Scriabin, a composer that Wong Yuja had just performed, I thought it would be a great opportunity to hear more of this infrequently played repertoire with the even rarer chance to listen to it again so soon after having heard it before.

Robin Zebaida was delightful. He gave a very informative and entertaining concert in which not only did he play on the piano, he told us more about the composers and even read some poems of Scriabin’s that related to the music he played. This is a refreshing change from the more formal, and strictly music, format most concerts follow.


His manner is very straightforward without gimmicks or histrionics. He has a serious approach when playing that is in contrast to his spoken presentation and he has a friendly demeanor which carried over to after the concert where he was very approachable.

I found little common ground between his interpretations and those of Ms Wong and anyway, they say comparisons are odious and there’s no value in being odious. So I will not make any comparisons between her and him. What I will say, however, is that I felt a marked difference between his playing of Scriabin and that of Rachmaninov. I have no doubt that Zebaida is keenly interested and intrigued by Scriabin. He has studied Scriabin and knows a great deal about his work, and his writings and his life.My impression was that Zebaida very much wanted us, and himself, to ‘get’ Scriabin on an intellectual level. I don’t have the vocabulary or even the insight to tell you what exactly the difference was but on a visceral level, I didn’t feel that Zebaida felt the Scriabin works in the same way he clearly felt Rachmaninov’s.

Please don’t think for a moment that this means Zebaida did a poor job or failed to give an enjoyable performance of Scriabin’s works but, as is generally true, performers have composers that they feel closer and more akin to than others but they aren’t forced to limit their talents to only those with whom they are most comfortable. It may be that when playing those composers that present the greatest challenges, the performing artist has the greatest potential for growth. If so, the conflict of interest between the performer and the audience couldn’t be greater. And just think if you had to add to that, a living composer …. But, that’s not an issue here.

The Rachmaninov was especially moving and I felt he underlaid beneath the notes a passionate connection that he then extended throughout the entire work. Zebaida has a holistic approach to his playing that was very apparent. The overall work was always in mind and the parts, the phrases and inventive but short-lived melodic bursts, never seemed distracting and extraneous but were an integral part of the work. As a listener I like that but I think it’s easier to write about such issues when they’re missing.

 I’m lucky that Hong Kong has and brings in so many artists who are great that I rarely get the chance to rip into anyone. I started this blog at the end of February 2015, at the start of the Arts Festival and it’s already August, as I am writing this review and, depending whether I decide to skip any, it will be close to 40 live performance in five months and there really aren’t any negative live performance reviews except perhaps one. Could I even write a negative review now? Because why would it be worth my trouble to write about a poor performance and if I did write it, why would I want it on my blog? Probably, I’ll find the answers to these questions once the opportunity presents itself. Until then, I want to thank the classical music promoters in Hong Kong for giving us such continually high quality choices of great artists and excellent performances.

Zebaida playing Schumann from an earlier Hong Kong recital:

And here he plays Scriabin from a recital in a church in London, 29th November 2015 – (Alert – this is one piano that needs some tuning.)