Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Lee Chin & Friends: A Strings Extravaganza / Review

Siow Lee Chin, Violin

Albert Tiu, Piano & Harpsichord
RGS String Ensemble
Lorenzo Muti, Conductor
Esplanade Concert Hall
Monday (27 April 2009)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 29 April 2009.

Singaporean violinist Siow Lee Chin, whose homecoming concert last November sparked frenzied scenes at the Conservatory, played to a far-bigger audience at the Esplanade in an event that also demonstrated how young women have progressed as musicians in Singapore. It is no exaggeration to state that today the most prominent violin names here belong to women.

Siow’s friends in concert included the String Ensemble of Raffles Girls School, her alma mater, and a couple of her students from South Carolina. The sight of an all-girl band with four solo violinists conducted by the Italian conductor Lorenzo Muti is reminiscent of Vivaldi’s Ospedale della Pieta orchestra of orphaned girls in Venice.

Quite appropriately, they gave an invigorating account of Vivaldi’s Concerto in B minor for four violins. Even though one of the young soloists dropped the baton along the way, there was a real sense of camaraderie as Siow gave her an encouraging pat on the back, like any good elder sister would. The concert opened with a larger body of strings in Black American composer George Walker’s elegiac Lyric for Strings, a refreshing alternative to Barber’s Adagio, with a gentle and clearly defined warmth.

Two students, Peruvian Jimena Lovon and Singaporean Lanabel Teo, then fearlessly raced through Sarasate’s virtuosic Navarra for two violins. It was never going to be perfect, but it was full of heart.

The rest of the evening belonged to Siow and her superb pianist collaborator Albert Tiu. Three movements from William Grant Still’s Suite for violin and piano were ample evidence of her wide-ranging assets – razor-keen reflexes, an acute sense of nuance, rhythmic exuberance and a beautiful singing line. Woman power came to the fore with her signature piece, Amy Beach’s Romance, written for the pre-eminent American lady violinist Maud Powell.

Its lovely cantabile, milked for all its worth, contrasted wildly with the rhapsodic lashings of Ravel’s gypsy-inspired Tzigane. Also dedicated to a woman violinist, the free-spirited Hungarian Jelly d’Aranyi, out came the stops with a no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners reading. The encores – Li Guo-Quan’s lyrical Fisherman’s Song At Sunset and Wieniawski’s fiery Polonaise – reprised this winning formula. Finery and fireworks, just about perfect.
Footnote: The concert raised $130,000 for the President's Charities.

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