"sheer incisiveness (and) power"
The New York Times, March 2015
Rachmaninov's mighty Third Piano Concerto was next, with 18- year-old former child prodigy Tengku Irfan, previously described in these pages as the "Malaysian Mozart", as soloist. To say that the Juilliard undergraduate conquered and vanquished the "Everest of piano concertos" would be mere understatement.
Beginning quietly and steadily, the performance grew in character and stature over its rapturous journey of 40-plus minutes. Without any hint of narcissism or self- indulgence, his apparent coolness while generating white heat in playing must be the most enviable trait in this profession.
The massive first movement cadenza, the Adagio's climax and skittish waltz, and the finale's mercurial free-wheeling were among moments to savour.
A standing ovation greeted this outing, which stands proudly alongside the work's best performances by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (with pianists Sergio Tiempo and Alexei Volodin) in recent years.
(Beethoven Piano Concerto No.3)...a reading that balanced passion with lyricism, and carefully honed nuances...the slow movement became sheer poetry...In the latter (third movement), his crisp articulation, lightness of touch and joie de vivre were distinguishing features which won the audience's wholehearted approval...
The Straits Times January 2015
"...16-year-old Tengku Irfan played the extensive piano part (Messiaen’s 'Oiseaux Exotiques') with admirable crispness and flair."
The Aspen Times
(Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2)...He exhibited superb technique along with great subtlety and a wonderfully varied tonal palette...
ConcertoNet.com May 2014
…now, all of 15, he calmly took on a work (Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 2) that has left many older and more experienced pianists nervous… he displayed the witted lyricism that seemed to have eluded many performances of the concerto…this was a dynamic and memorable performance…
The Star, August 2013
"...if any of you young pianists or professionals ever need a good reason to give up piano altogether, you can go and see the youtube clip that we first fell in love with: Irfan's playing of Elliott Carter's virtuostic, demonic piece, 'Caténaires'..."
Christopher O'Riley, 2013
…the piano prodigy raced through the 31-minute long piece (Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 2) with a keen bravado well beyond his years… the smiley 15-year-old blew audience members away with his dexterous and heartfelt performance…
New Straits Times, August 2013
“...much of the reason for the sold out crowd followed with the performance of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.1 in E minor Opus 11 by the 13 year old Tengku...he played wonderfully; the sublime passages of Chopin flowed melodiously and with apparent ease...”
ERR News July 2011
“...he (Tengku Irfan) knows all the Mahler symphonies...music is just play to him...he is not (just) a child playing piano, he is an artist...”
Neeme Järvi, 2010
(Translation): “There was a totally extraordinary experience in Parnu Concert Hall offered by the UENSO Orchestra and a 12 year old pianist from Malaysia, Tengku Ahmad Irfan...There are not many child prodigies who have nimble fingers and skilfully reproduce musical ideas . But Tengku Ahmad Irfan is totally different. This young man was able to deliver the rhythmic accuracy and a multitude of sounds when performing the Mozart Piano Concerto No.27. The fundamentals of rhythm, phrasing and tone colour was delivered as if one is speaking or breathing. The resulting sound was quite similar to what may be experienced in a Murray Perahia, Andras Schiff or Paul Lewis concert. When Irfan and Maestro Järvi improvised with the orchestra and also performed an encore of the Larghetto, it was shown how two talented musicians who are separated by 60 years of age difference can communicate to each other with the same language.”
IMPRESIOONID October 2010
“His (Irfan’s) performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.8 on Sunday was, in every way, a truly self-assured one: impeccable in tempo, richly expressive and always alert to witty exchanges with theorchestra. He even performed his own cadenzas for the concerto and topped it off with an impromptu composition at the keyboard as an encore!...Amazingly, Tengku Ahmad nailed it (Chopin’s Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise Brillante), with fluid, almost insouciant, playing... his fingerwork was dazzling and heartfelt, literally transporting listeners to Chopin’s world.”
The Star January 2011
(Translation): "…Mozart’s final piano concerto is not easy to perform, moreover for a child, especially the Allegro Larghetto, in terms of the form and secondly technically. But what we see is a level of maturity which is difficult to be believed. The boy whose legs can barely touch the pedals takes on the performance before a huge audience without the slightest impairment. He was not at all affected by the change of conductors throughout the whole piano concerto. But the extraordinary happened when conductor Neeme Järvi took over for the Mozart Larghetto. The maestro, a born musician showed a real synergy between him and Irfan which resulted in what was truly worthy of Mozart. Irfan’s proficiency is again demonstrated during the improvisation with the orchestra, with the musical result reminiscent of Rachmaninoff’s styling…"
SIRP August 2010