Tuesday, 1 September 2009

CHUA LIK WUK & LIM YAN in Recital: Review

Esplanade Recital Studio
Sunday (30 August 2009)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 1 September 2009.

If a concert-goer were to pick only one chamber concert to attend within the duration of a year, this would be the one to choose. Like sightings of Halley’s Comet, performances by former Singapore Symphony Orchestra violinist Chua Lik Wuk are all too rare. However his once-a-year appearance with fellow Young Artist Award recipient pianist Lim Yan in recital is well worth waiting for.

Their journey through the world of violin sonatas will hopefully be one blessed with longevity, as this evening’s varied offerings was yet another supreme testament to their collaboration.

Beethoven’s early E flat major Sonata (Op.12 No.3) has a very busy piano part, one that Lim handled with utmost accuracy and sensitivity. With Chua’s 1711 Stradivarius entering the fray, the result was a potent mix, fuelling some vital life force that kept both musicians on edge from start to finish. Fine control and purity of sound defined the molto espressivo slow movement, with the Rondo’s hunt-like romp juggling between indulging in playfulness and reveling in intricate counterpoint.

The duo treading a tightrope through Ravel’s G major Sonata provided a different vista of their virtuosity. The blend of seemingly incompatible lines in the first movement was delicately handled, while the Blues movement delighted in its banjo effects, with pizzicati and portamenti aplenty. The final Perpetual Motion raced unapologetically with sparks flying and bowstrings fraying.

Effulgent romanticism was the key to Richard Strauss’ early Sonata in E flat major (Op.18) but the duo’s approach was more subtle than most would have expected. Instead of smothering with kisses of radiant sunshine, theirs was the view that illumination also casts its fair share of shadows. Passionate love was not to be worn heart-on-sleeve, instead insinuated or suggested.

The perfumed lyricism of the slow movement was song-like and soulful, the only concession for sentimentality. Heroic fanfares issued through dark chords in the Finale, and here it was no-holds-barred to the victorious end. The expression of desperate determination etched on Chua’s furrowed brow balanced by Lim’s leisurely but totally composed countenance made for a study of contrasts, but also a legendary partnership in the making.

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