Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra: Contrasts / Review

Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra
ADRIAN TAN, Conductor
Victoria Concert Hall
Sunday (31 May 2009)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 2 June 2009.

Despite the relative youth and inexperience of its players, the Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra continues to defy its perceived limitations with a can-do and never-say-die attitude towards the classics. This evening’s concert was an excellent case in point.

The programme began with the atonal 31.05.09 Overture by young Singaporean composer Americ Goh, who currently studies in Austria. His grasp of serial and aleatoric techniques, music employing the element of chance as espoused by the likes of Schoenberg and Cage, was secure. A short work that provoked and challenged, it ended all too soon as it began to develop into something substantial and with the senses acclimatised to its astringent idiom.

Its supposed quotations of Sibelius and Rachmaninov never came to fruition for these ears, probably too deeply embedded within the score. Relief of sorts came in Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D minor, with the sheer force of personality of soloist Chan Yoong Han (left) holding sway. His magisterial performance, exercising an ideal combination of technical mastery and wide sonorous vibratos, kept the entire performance buoyant and afloat.

The demanding collaborative role part saw the orchestra struggling for some part but it mostly kept pace with Chan’s searing intensity and energy, ensuring that the finale’s “polonaise of polar bears” was kept on a high wire tightrope throughout.

An even bigger challenge came in Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony, perhaps too ambitious a work for the orchestra’s current stage of development. Nevertheless, it persevered under naval officer turned conductor Adrian Tan (left), an intrepid soul who displays much affinity to this music. While the symphony’s expansive opening was mired down by its own weight, an overall sense of purpose was nonetheless palpable.

To expect perfection was a tall order, but there were moments of inspiration, through melodic swells and heartrending climaxes, that made the venture worthwhile. The solos from cor anglais, clarinet and concertmaster Ivan Peev were splendid, as were the voltage and tension generated in the faster episodes. Rachmaninov had sanctioned cuts in the hour-long work. Had these been observed, a tauter and more streamlined reading would have resulted.

That the orchestra, drawing from final reserves of adrenaline, hurdled over rather than stumbled across the finishing line was also worth mentioning. With further exposure to new works and a variety of conductors and soloists, Singapore’s only community orchestra can play an even bigger role in our vibrant musical scene.

No comments: