Tuesday, 14 July 2009

SSO Chamber Concert: Schubert's Trout Quintet / Review

Victoria Concert Hall
Sunday (12 July 2009, 5pm)

The Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s chamber music series at Victoria Concert Hall began in 2003 as an exercise to sharpen the musical skills of individual players performing in small ensembles. By this year, celebrity musicians such as American-Chinese violinist Cho-Liang Lin and Russian conductor Lev Markiz have come as guests, bringing these concerts to an even higher level.

Local musicians have also found themselves a faithful following. It was refreshing to see Shanghai-born pianist Yao Xiao Yun (left), who two weeks ago brilliantly graced the Young Virtuoso Recital of the Singapore International Piano Festival, return to collaborate in chamber music. Her offering was the extremely demanding piano part in Anton Arensky’s First Piano Trio in D minor, one that dominated the proceedings, alternating between Russian melancholy and brooding with Mendelssohnian wit and charm.

Her string partners, violinist Chen Da Wei and cellist Chan Wei Shing, who carried much of the melodic lines - and hence the pathos – were in sync with her throughout. The balance was close to ideal, none better heard in the 3rd movement’s Elegia, a tear-jerker in the best Tchaikovskian tradition.

Northern doom and gloom gave way to the sunny climes and gaiety of Schubert’s Trout Quintet in A major. Here it should be noted that Arensky (above) died from the ravages of alcoholism while Schubert those of syphilis. Its unusual scoring gave double bassist Yang Zheng Yi the role as a resolute anchor and rhythm section while his colleagues had all the tunes.

Central to this was pianist Liu Jia’s (left) contribution, which was immaculate in that it never sought to shock and awe despite its starring role. Such is the essence of chamber music, where one-upmanship is shunned and consensus arrived before the first note. Violinist Chan Yoong Han is a natural leader, and when the loud opening chord resounded with gusto, one was reassured that the performance was going to be a strong one.

As it proved, the audience was silent and gripped for the longest part, alert enough to ignore the false endings and erupt with vociferous applause and one raving chant of “bravo” when it ended. More of the same again please.

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