Sunday, 19 July 2009

SSO Concert: President's Young Performers Concert / Review

Singapore Symphony Orchestra
DARRELL ANG, Conductor
Esplanade Concert Hall
Thursday (16 July 2009)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 18 July 2009.

A solo appearance at the annual President’s Young Performers Concert by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra is arguably the highest accolade a local musician under the age of 30 can aspire to. While even an invitation to audition for the series is an honour, actually performing on the vast Esplanade stage with VIPs in attendance is quite something else.

Eleven-year-old pianist Mervyn Lee Cheng Hui could not have had a better concerto début with Haydn’s Piano Concerto in D major. Exhibiting neither emotion nor nerves, his self-assured take - coloured with a subtle variety of shades and dynamics - would have made someone double or triple his age proud. Crafting his own cadenzas, itself a dying art of extemporisation, these surprised with sudden shifts in harmonies and nuances. All this confirms that he is fully in tune with the cunning wit of Haydn, and suggests a budding composer-to-be.

Canada-born soprano Anisa Kureishi, now a permanent resident here, was gowned in pristine white, and had the angelic presence to sing a vision of a child’s heaven in the finale (Das himmlische Leben, or The Heavenly Life) of Mahler’s idyllic Fourth Symphony in G major. Her deportment and intonation were impeccable throughout, but voice projection and conveying of the expressions beyond mere words were little more than a very talented fourteen-year-old could manage.

A commanding but seemingly compliant persona is needed to be convincing. That is exactly the reason why most recordings and performances, barring notable exceptions, involve mature singers (one thinks of Frederica von Stade or Barbara Hendricks, for example) who bring depth but act child-like rather than children portraying their own age.

Darrell Ang (left), himself a youth by conductor’s standards, presided over the orchestra like a veteran. The balance of the symphony, Mahler’s lightest, shortest and least neurotic, passed like a pleasant dream. Its leisurely rolling slopes and valleys were traversed between gentle contemplation and persuasively heaving but not thunderous climaxes. Every phrase was carefully judged, with little or none of the cathartic extremes that usually typified Mahler’s oeuvre.

The theme of youth had earlier begun the concert with Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite. Sumptuously orchestrated, each fairytale-inspired movement was performed with much colour and characterisation. From furtive birdcalls, gamelan chimes, gauche waltzing to miraculous transformations, fantastic imagery was never in short supply. All one needs is to abandon all worries and doubt, and let the music do the story telling.

1 comment:

chanchilla said...

Hi Dr Chang! Thanks for visiting my blog! Yep will keep writing, look forward to more concerts ahead with you and Jonathan :)
And your reviews are great, thanks for sharing them all online! Anyway, Jonathan and I are performing in a music concert tonight, 7.30pm at Singapore Poly Convention Centre! Hope to see ya there:)

(if that may interest you...)

a music concert from the heart

Date: 25 July 09
Venue: Singapore Poly Convention Centre
Time: 7.30pm
Tickets are priced at $8 each.
All proceeds will be donated to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.

For tickets, email or call 94553883/ 98280246.
Or Visit / for information!

Just Brass Ensemble:
Kiki the Delivery Witch
The Saints Hallelujah
Somewhere Out There

Key Elements:
Beyond The Sea
Jian Dan Ai 简单爱
Honey Pie

Matthew Quek:
I dreamed a dream
Through Heaven’s Eyes
Music of the Night

Quartet from Singapore National Youth Orchestra:
String Quartet No. 12 in F, Op. 96, B. 179 Antonin Dvořák

Piano Trio:
“Dumky Trio”: Allegro & Lento Maestoso by Antonin Dvořák

Alan Choo:
Russian Dance from "Swan Lake" Tchaikovsky

Russian Dance from "Petrouchka" Igor Stravinsky

Traditional Folksong: "Two Guitars"

PIANO DUO: Chan Chi Ling and Jonathan Shin:
The Italian Polka Sergei Rachmaninov

Le Cygne (The Swan) Camille Saint-Saëns

Clarence Lee:
Soirée de Vienne, Op.56 Alfred Grünfeld