Tuesday, 28 July 2009

OFFSHOOTS by re:mix / Review

OFFSHOOTS by re:mix
FOO SAY MING, Violin & Conductor
Esplanade Recital Studio
Sunday (26 July 2009)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 28 July 2009.

For those who imagined that the hip chamber outfit re:mix could only play short pieces and morsels of kitsch were in for a surprise. Offshoots was probably its most demanding programme to date, especially for its leader and conductor SSO violinist Foo Say Ming.

The Italian violinist-composer Giuseppe Tartini is probably best remembered as a one-hit wonder. His Devil’s Trill Sonata in G minor is played by every virtuoso violinist in expense of his other works. In an arrangement by Riccardo Zandonai, re:mix exuded a warm, rich and creamy sound, one that filled Esplanade Recital Studio with a grateful sonority

Foo’s (left) solo violin gradually eased its way into the fore, and soon dominated centrestage. He possesses an easy-going virtuosity, one that does not bring attention to himself, yet commands calm authority. His take on the trill-laden cadenza was however on a cautious side, but the totally acceptable trade-off was close to impeccable intonation.

An electronic keyboard that substituted for a harpsichord grated on the ears and nerves. Esplanade should thus invest in a harpsichord as more baroque music will be heard in years to come.

The Singapore premiere of John Adams’ Shaker Loops provided the most palpable visceral thrill. Minimalism at its most sophisticated, the repetitious patterns and hypnotic looped rhythms offered a potent jolt to the senses, yet a strangely calming effect. Even if one did not warm to 25-minutes of tour de force string-playing by re:mix, watching Foo’s Terpsichorean moves in his direction also afforded some pleasure.

Finally the World Premiere of Singaporean composer Kelly Tang’s (left) Two Contrasts for solo violin and strings provided yet more delight. Tailor-made for its performers, this 13-minute violin concerto is a summation of everything re:mix stands for: its attitudinous stance and no-holds barred repertoire.

The sultry opening Preludio mixed quasi-Piazzolla slinky moves with the blues, followed by an out-and-out romp of a Toccata. The latter suggested but did not quote from virtuoso violin concertos, but true to its Bach-like title, exulted in a short fugal section. Music lesson and entertainment combined, this sounded exactly like what in his element Foo – also a distinguished violin pedagogue – was born to play.

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