Sunday, 21 September 2008

Chua Lik Wuk & Lim Yan / Violin & Piano Recital: Review

LIM YAN, Piano

Esplanade Recital Studio Thursday (4 September 2008)

This review first appeared in The Straits Times on 8 September 2008

It is the opinion of this listener that former Singapore Symphony Orchestra first violinist Chua Lik Wuk does not perform enough in public. Over 250 others also felt the same as they packed Esplanade's Recital Studio to witness his annual recital with pianist Lim Yan. The duo, both winners of National Arts Council's Young Artist Award, further cemented their highly successful collaboration with yet another blistering showing.

Chua is without doubt still among Singapore's finest violinists, one who combines a gorgeous string tone, stupendous technical control and an instinctual feel for all music he engages in. The varied smorgasbord presented in the demanding programme brought out every vista of his technique, beginning with plain-speaking Mozart's Sonata in C major (K.303) and then plumbing the depths of Prokofiev's Sonata No.l in F minor (Op.80).

The latter is one of the 20th century's greatest utterances in the genre, a dark introspective masterpiece that traverses multiple shades of grey, while indulging in vitriol and bitter ironies. Chua's evocation of "wind in the graveyard" in the outer movements was positively eerie, only matched by Lim's unfailing and ever steady partnership.

Hushed tones in the 3rd movement suggested that Prokofiev was a melodist equal to Rachmaninov, while the fraying of bow hairs in the rambunctious finale was proof that the hair-pulling intensity generated was for real.

The second half was even better, with Beethoven's Sonata in G major (Op.30 No.3) brimming with brio. Like Mozart, Beethoven designated his violin sonatas as sonatas for piano with violin, but there was no evidence of the pianist getting the upper hand as both performers blended seamlessly through its three movements. The slow movement's Tempo di Menuetto floated with grace and nobility.

Gabriel Faure's Sonata No.l in A major gave further opportunities for both musicians to soar, and Lim's fulsome opening solo set the tone for a performance that bristled with Romantic sweep and ardour. By now, raw passion was in full flow, coursing through without reserve the inward-speaking Andante, the playful game of tag that was its scherzo, and the valedictory finale.

There was no need for an encore, as the two hours of joyous music making had left little more to be desired.

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