Tuesday, 17 March 2009

SSO Chamber Concert: An Evening Serenade with Cho-Liang Lin / Review

Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Victoria Concert Hall
Sunday (15 March 2009, 5pm)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 17 March 2009.

A sizeable audience greeted Taiwan-born violinist Cho-Liang Lin, one of the world’s great string players, in his debut chamber concert with the SSO. To be more precise, this is not Lin’s first time conducting here, having shared a concert with Lan Shui at the Esplanade several years ago where he conducted from the violin Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

This dual role of soloist and conductor was gloriously relived in Mozart’s Fourth Violin Concerto, where his big and sweet tone was only matched by the vigour in which the chamber-sized orchestra responded. No apologies were made for ignoring period performance practice, as outsized vibratos and broad lyrical sweeps distinguished this reading. Even the romantically-inclined cadenzas by Raymond Leppard played in all three movements enchanted rather than distracted.

It was the slow second movement that brought out the most discreet and lushest accompaniment from the band, which was repeated in the second half’s Serenata Notturno, also by Mozart. Here a concertante quartet of Lin and Concertmaster Sasha Souptel on violins, violist Zhang Manchin and bassist Guennadi Mouzyka were most charming protagonists in a lively interplay between the two instrumental groups.

The last time SSO performed Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll was as a “lightweight” prelude to Act One of Die Walkure, in 2007. On this evening, it was the most concentrated slice of music on show, but the sheer warmth of strings and excellent solos from winds and brass offered total pleasure for its 20 minutes or so.

Lin’s almost leisurely leadership however intensified for Tchaikovsky’s popular Serenade For Strings. The outer movements benefited from a tautness of ensemble that also allowed for spaciousness of tempi. Never a slave to the metronome, the familiar Waltz lilted with ever-nostalgic sentimentality, while the Elegy – with luscious legatos from the violins – relived old and lost romances. The folksong and dance inspired finale rebounded with renewed energy, closing the concert in high spirits.

SSO’s policy of inspiring its musicians by playing chamber music alongside top-ranked visiting artists worked like a dream here. Long may that continue.

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