Saturday, 15 August 2009

Violin Recital by Tang Tee Khoon / Review

TANG TEE KHOON Violin Recital
with Sholto Kynoch, Piano
Victoria Concert Hall
Thursday (13 August 2009)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 15 August 2009.

A violin is merely a box with strings, one that projects sounds when scratched with a bow. It is the performer who breathes life into a musical instrument and gives it a soul. The National Arts Council’s 1750 J.B.Guadagnini violin could not have found a more deserving recipient in 25-year-old Tang Tee Khoon, former child-prodigy and winner of the 1999 National Violin Competition, who gets to travel with and play it for the next two years.

From the opening solo of Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata (Op.47), there was an unmistakable sense of someone who knows what she wants to say in the music and the dogged will to pursue it. Purity of tone and impeccable intonation aside, it was her robust and gloves-off attack on passionate Middle-period Beethoven that was most awe-inspiring.

With such colours nailed firmly to the mast, she matched blow for blow with the excellent British pianist Sholto Kynoch (left) in this exciting music. There was little or no fear that she might be drowned out by the denser keyboard textures. In the long-breathed Theme and Variations of the second movement, there was also sensitivity and care for detail that impressed, before the irrepressible headlong plunge into the finale’s exultant tarantella.

In the Brahms Second Sonata in A major (Op.100) that began the recital, it was a more relaxed and song-like countenance that took over in this mellow but no less demanding work. Here the persuasive art of give-and-take between violin and pianist marked the m├ętier of experienced chamber musicians. The melodies flowed unabated, as if in light gossamer–sprinkled dreams.

Belgian arch-virtuoso Eugene Ysaye’s unaccompanied Sixth Sonata (dedicated to Manuel Quiroga) served as the de facto encore. With all the stops pulled, this fiend of a showstopper displayed everything the instrument had to offer in terms of its sonic capabilities and range of dynamics. From whisper to full-throated roar, Tang delivered with great confidence and stunning aplomb.

There is little doubt that in Tang and the nation’s Guadagnini, a close to perfect match is being forged. It will pay rewardingly to closely follow our two national treasures.

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