Thursday, 27 August 2009

HSBC Youth Excellence Gala 2009: Review

HSBC Youth Excellence Gala Concert
Orchestra of the Music Makers
Chan Tze Law, Conductor
Esplanade Theatre
Tuesday (25 August 2009)

A severely edited version of this review was published by The Straits Times on 27 August 2009.

This year’s recipient of the HSBC Youth Excellence Award for Music was not an individual as in previous years, but an outstanding group of individuals – the barely one-year-old Orchestra of the Music Makers (OMM). It was on this very platform accompanying past awardees in concert that the OMM was founded.

Four concerts later, the 90-strong ensemble led by conductor Chan Tze Law had not only found its feet, but has begun to soar. Its depth of repertoire is ambitious, playing works way more advanced than their collective ages suggests, and performing at such a high level as to challenge the professionals. Shostakovich’s Festive Overture appropriately kicked off the concert, and even if the trumpets cracked on the opening fanfare, there was no stopping the outpouring of spirit and exuberance.

Its commitment to local music sealed a sympathetic performance of young award-winning composer Wang Chen Wei’s The Sisters’ Islands (composer pictured left) This enjoyable tone poem featured solos on the guzheng and recorder, while marrying Indonesian-flavoured themes with an orchestration that assimilated influences from Sibelius and Tan Chan Boon.

Two former HSBC laureates, violinists Janell Yeo (15 years old, left above) and Gabriel Ng (14 years old, left below), joined the OMM in showy concertante works. The former lit up the stage in Saint-SaĆ«ns’ lilting Havanaise, displaying a sweet ingratiating tone, while the former blazed a brilliant path through the finale of Paganini’s Violin Concerto No.1 almost effortlessly To prove he was not just all fingers, Ng’s opening phrase and solo in Beethoven’s Romance No.1 in G major (Op.40) was so warm as to melt the iciest of hearts.

Reprising the past week’s Rachmaninov revelry, OMM brought out the heavy artillery in the finale of the Russian romantic’s Second Symphony. Again, it was the precision of execution and sheer passion that impressed. The strings was just gorgeous, treading the fine line between sentimentality and schmaltz, coupled with the winds and brass in top form capped yet another memorable outing.

As a parting gift to the President and First Lady of Singapore, Elgar’s Nimrod from the Enigma Variations brought out the most subtle and noble of crescendos, rising to a glorious high before gently receding. This is virtuosity at its purest, not just efficiently delivering the notes but to sincerely convey what mere words cannot express.


Unknown said...

Dear Dr. Chang, pleased to meet you at the concert, and thank you for mentioning my work in your review! -Wang Chenwei

Janell Yeo said...

Hello Dr Chang,

I found your blog with pleasant surprise and I just wanted to say that it is enjoyable to read and definitely keeps me up-to-date with the music scene in Singapore! Thank you for your lovely reviews.

Hope to meet you again soon,
Janell Yeo