Monday, 24 August 2009

Orchestra of the Music Makers: RACH 2 / Review

Orchestra of the Music Makers
CHAN TZE LAW, Conductor
Victoria Concert Hall
Friday (21 August 2009)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 24 August 2009.

The title says it all. For music-lovers, it is merely the abbreviation of Russian Romantic composer Serge Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto or Second Symphony. In this case, both landmark works featured in an exhausting programme that marked a new high for the Orchestra of the Music Makers (OMM).

A sign that the music scene in Singapore has progressed inexorably, this was the third performance of the demanding hour-long symphony by an orchestra of young musicians in just six months. It was also the best by a country mile. This performance had the recipe that made for utterly compelling listening: excellence of execution, an acute urgency to communicate, and the temerity to take all kinds of risks.

Under conductor Chan Tze Law’s (left) firm guiding hands, the music soared from the word go. Pride of place goes to the strings, which drew a sonorous collective sigh before launching skyward into lyrical heaven. This is the stuff of dreams, of reliving nostalgia without resorting to sentimental portamenti (slides and slurs) or other swooning effects.

The incisiveness of attack was most keenly felt in the 2nd movement scherzo, its tumultuous fugal section erupting with genuine Tchaikovskian hysteria. Vincent Goh’s clarinet solo in the slow movement was a joy to behold, as were concertmaster See Ian Ike’s contributions and numerous other solos. The finale’s surging wave after wave of sound was matched by the orchestra’s irrepressible momentum, which rode the epic crest till its brilliant and breathless conclusion.

All this took place after the orchestra played collaborator to New Zealander John Chen’s (left) warm-hearted and totally musical account of the concerto. Unlike certain big-name pianists of his generation, Chen is incapable of making an ugly sound. Beyond the flash and dash of Rachmaninov’s extroverted pages, he also ably brought out the melancholy and angst that distinguished this music.

While he could have emoted more in the slow movement, there was little to be further desired in the sizzling cadenzas of the finale, its rapturously heartrending climaxes and grandstand finish. Two Rachmaninov √Čtudes-tableaux (from Op.33) as encores also showcased a crisp and clear-as-a-bell technique.

For those fearing for the future of classical music, look no further. Soloist and ensemble alike, these youths with a mission are set to conquer the world.

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