Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Chamber Music Weekend / Review

Incursion Trio, Esplanade Recital Studio
(Saturday, 15 August 2009)
VCH Chamber Series, Victoria Concert Hall
(Sunday, 16 August 2009, 5.00 pm)
Yang Shuxiang & Friends, Esplanade Recital Studio
(Sunday, 16 August 2009, 7.30 pm)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 18 August 2009.
What a busy weekend this has been. With the Singapore Symphony Orchestra on a month-long break, local chamber groups and musicians have come out in full force.
First off was the curiously named Incursion Trio (above). Word has it that the three young Singaporeans – violinist Siew Yi Li, cellist Brandon Voo and pianist Beatrice Lin - gave their first recital together in the Swiss town of Sion, hence its name. More topical was the group’s incusion off the beaten track of repertory works to present local premieres of a teenaged Claude Debussy’s Piano Trio in G minor and Spaniard Joaquin Turina’s Second Piano Trio.

These aren’t the greatest of pieces, but there are enough pleasantries to shake off the derivative nature of the former (think Saint-Saëns and Fauré in a palm court), or the paucity of Hispanic-ness in the latter. Polish, confidence and a lovely overall sound are their qualities, capped with an ability to sustain long sighs in Schubert’s autumnal Notturno.

More established are the three ladies of the Feng Trio, members of the SSO, who presented Brahms’ First Piano Trio in B major (Op.8). Has there been a more gorgeous melody than the one that opens this masterpiece? Their sense of nobility and sumptuous handling were alone worth the price of admission.

Pianist Liu Jia (above) also joined other SSO colleagues in Hummel’s Piano Quintet in E flat minor (Op.87), unusually scored to include the double bass. Stylistically caught between Mozart and Mendelssohn, this trifle was 20-minutes innocuous minutes well spent, with a scintillating piano part to tickle the palate.

Leaving the most spectacular for the last, 20-year-old violinist Yang Shuxiang made a stunning debut with pianist Khor Shang Jin (both above) to a rapturous standing ovation. Looking like Adonis sporting a Paganinian mane, Yang’s sheer force of personality and a sonorous vibrato to match was simply breathtaking. There was little to quibble about his effortless take on Vitali’s Chaconne, closely followed by Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No.7 in C minor (Op.30 No.2), which penetrated with an intensity of a laser and bristled with brio.

His ability to blend were further highlighted with duos partnering violinist See Ian Ike and violist Tan Wee Hsin, in Moszkowski’s hyper-Romantic Suite for 2 violins in G minor and Lazar Trachtenberg’s devilishly dissonant Witches Soirée respectively. The diablerie continued with Ravel’s Tzigane, a gypsy rhapsody where free-ranging sense of abandon displayed by both violinist and pianist became an asset.

May wonders in our local chamber music scene never cease, and such weekends of musical manna never end.

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