The first report of a concert in Leicester in his cuttings book is dated 21st October 1924 in the Leicester Mercury under the title Mr James Ching’s Recital. The review begins with the words ‘Rarely has a young musical newcomer to Leicester evoked such unanimous and unstinted enthusiasm as that which greeted Mr S. James Ching at the close of his invitation recital at the Edward Wood Hall last evening. His acceptance among the leading lights of the city’s music was instant and complete…. He has a wonderful control of tone. ’ He played Bach’s Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, two Rhapsodies by Brahms, Chopin’s Andante and Polonaise Op. 22, Schumann’s Toccata, as well as works by Debussy, Ireland and Cyril Scott.
First London Recitals
The first London recital on September 23rd 1925 in the Wigmore Hall received a similar good review under the title London Concerts – Mr James Ching. The report begins ‘It is not often that one meets with a young pianist possessing such strong leanings towards the classical side of music as Mr James Ching…….Altogether the newcomer made an excellent impression’. His entry into the London musical scene was also noted in the Manchester Evening News under the heading ‘First Appearance at Eight’. The reviewer writes ‘James Ching was a prodigy, and wonderful to relate, promises to be a great pianist – the exception to the rule. He was a student at the Royal Academy at seven, the youngest on record, made his first public appearance at the Wigmore Hall at eight.’
A similar cutting from the Daily Telegraph states ‘There are many prodigies so-called, but the proportion that mature and become great pianists is small. It will be interesting to see if the promise of James Ching’s boyhood has been fulfilled……As a child all sounds to him were associated with music; street calls, steam whistles and birds all spoke to him in certain keys…. His speciality is Bach; indeed he has been a Bach enthusiast from his early days.’ His Wigmore Hall concerts were also mentioned in the Aberdeen Press as well as in his home city of Leicester. Following the first recital the review in the Times 23rd September was most encouraging, written under the heading of Mr James Ching’s Recital – Bach and Brahms. The reviewer ended by writing ‘Most of all the success of this first recital was proved in the fact that one left looking forward with pleasure to the subsequent opportunities of hearing him’.
This first concert was also favourably reviewed in the East Anglian Times and the Ipswich Evening Star, both interested on account of his time spent at Ipswich School. The Musical News and Herald wrote on October 3rd 1925 ‘At his first recital on the 22nd inst. Mr James Ching proved anew the extraordinary vitality of the British School of Pianoforte playing. Fashions come and go but there must always be a welcome for one who plays Bach and Scarlatti with such charm and understanding of Mr Ching’s renderings….Mr Ching has undeniable power and ability…His career will be watched with great interest.’ His second Wigmore Hall recital took place on October 5th and was received by the Daily Telegraph music critic who noted his ‘intelligence and high sincerity of purpose ‘…Chopin’s Polonaise Brillante (opus 2) … the introductory andante spianato had the right delicacy and poetic suggestion.’ At this time he was playing music by a variety of composers including Brahms, Weelkes, Byrd and Gibbons. Later in his career he decided to concentrate on the music of Bach which he loved and which suited both his temperament and slightly small hands.
The third Wigmore Hall recital on October 20th was reviewed by the Times on 23rd October 1925 and by the Observer on 25th. This was again a performance of music by a variety of composers including John Ireland but his playing of Bach was particularly praised by the music critic of the Times who wrote ‘the last word must be in praise of his lucid performance of the Partita (Bach C minor) and his complete mastery of the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, which is to pianists what the Chaconne is to players of the violin’.
The Musical Standard critic wrote ‘On his third recital in the Wigmore Hall on Oct 20th, James Ching laid siege to the sympathies of his audience via the charm of exquisitely beautiful tone in his pianoforte playing. In the Bach that I heard (the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue) the clean cut rhythm and phrasing lent an additional charm to his performance because of the interest in part writing that it revealed, and the difficult study in C, Op. 31 No. 1, of Glazounov, was played with gossamer lightness, reminding one, more than ever, of glinting sunshine and shadow.’