Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concerto Competition Finals / Review

Concerto Competition Finals
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Orchestra
WANG YA-HUI, Conductor
Conservatory Concert Hall
Monday (16 February 2009)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 18 February 2009.

For lovers of the concerto, there is no better showcase in Singapore than the Grand Finals of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory’s Concerto Competition. Many weeks of practice and preparations went into selecting the four finalists – a pianist, French hornist, violinist and cellist - winners of their respective instrumental competitions. Partnered by the tireless Conservatory Orchestra led by the ever-responsive baton of Wang Ya-Hui, the talent on display was awe-inspiring.

It was refreshing to see Beethoven, instead of the usual Rachmaninov or Prokofiev, on the piano finalist’s plate. Akkra Yeunyonghattaporn (Thailand, left) captured the angst and brio of the German’s Third Piano Concerto to equal measure. His emphatic entries were spotless and spot-on, portraying the composer as both long-suffering soul and all-conquering hero. While there was no shortage of bravura, one did have to dig deeper for the poetry that brought music to a higher plane.

Eloquence and fluidity were the strong points of wind finalist Xie Yelin (China, left), whose take on Richard Strauss’ athletic First Horn Concerto seemed as natural as speaking a mother tongue. He exhibited exemplary breath control and kept the melodic line seamlessly, so well as to make the few fluffs of intonation seem negligible.

When the turn of violinist Hsien Jou (Taiwan, left) arrived, it seemed way past her bedtime. Within the opening bars of Saint-Saens’ Third Violin Concerto, a star in the marking had announced herself with a combined force of personality and virtuosity. Her voluminous tone (a singing one to add) and big gestures were scarcely believable for one so young, and her penetrating sound cut through swathes of orchestral textures effortlessly.

Before crowning a likely winner, cellist Lu Bingxia (China, left) had to be heard. She cut a figure of concentration in Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations, coaxing a generously burnished timbre that was totally pleasing and had long-breathed moments to die for. Negotiating between whispers, sighs and full-throated melismata, this was what genuine music-making is all about. Lu’s ability to deliver the notes with stunning aplomb yet tug firmly on the heartstrings made her, for this listener, the most compelling soloist of all.

One does not necessarily have to agree with the international panel of judges (which incidentally awarded the First Prize to the prodigious Hsien, below) to realise that we are in the midst of an embarrassment of musical riches.

1 comment:

hcsin said...

Actually, Baby-faced Hsien Jou had just celebrated her 16 birthday in January.