Monday, 31 August 2009

Violin Recital by AMANDA LOW / Review

Violin Recital
with Cindy Lee, Piano
Young Musicians Society Auditorium
Friday (28 August 2009)

An edited version of this review was published in The Straits Times on 31 August 2009.

When one is sixteen, and has already won prizes in the national music competition and performed concertos with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra at the Esplanade, it would be tempting to imagine the world as one’s oyster. However for the hopeful professional musician, this dream start is merely the beginning of a long journey.

Young violinist Amanda Low, now studying at Michigan’s Interlochen Arts Academy, may be said to have reached the crossroads. Having grown out of the child prodigy mode, she is gingerly making steps into adulthood. Yet she still possesses a childlike innocence, one that has yet to exploit any feminine wiles in her stage deportment.

Any hint of self-effacement soon evaporates with her playing, which is robustly confident yet sensitive to musical nuances and dynamic shifts. Her demanding programme, performed completely from memory, began with Vitali’s Chaconne and the Adagio from J.S.Bach’s unaccompanied Sonata No.1 in G minor (BWV.1001).

One senses that she is more of a musical thinker than trapeze-artist, as the above gave more satisfaction than the virtuoso fodder that was Paganini’s Caprice No.24 or Sarasate’s Scherzo-Tarantella. In the former, the fiendishly difficult pizzicato variation proved to be more than she could manage.

In John Williams’ Main Theme from Schindler’s List, she ably brought out the sorrow of the oppressed, with any tendency to over-elaborate firmly suppressed. Interestingly, it was the most demanding work of her recital – Sibelius’ Violin Concerto (composer pictured left) - where she impressed the most.

Only the first movement was performed, but that was enough. From the rapt opening pianissimo to its tempest-tossed pages of passion, she not only mastered the notes but also expressed full measure of the darker messages within. The severely truncated piano accompaniment from Cindy Lee was episodic but no impediment to music-making, and the cadenzas came through well as she fearlessly rode the storm.

What next for this most sincere of musicians? As the old riddle goes, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practise, practise and practise.”

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