Thursday, 8 October 2009

Camerata de Lausanne / Review

Camerata de Lausanne
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concert Hall
Tuesday (6 October 2009)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 8 October 2009.

Mozart’s serenade Eine Kleine Nachtmusik might seem like a most popular piece of music, but how often does one hear it in concert? Far from being tainted with familiarity, Camerata de Lausanne – the young string ensemble from Lausanne Conservatory (Switzerland) – made it sound freshly minted, as if falling in love for the first time.

The ensemble of 13 musicians led by veteran violinist Pierre Amoyal (left) produced a lush, full-bodied sound, filling the hall with a rich and warm glow. Balance was close to perfect, where not just the top melodic line was distinguished but also much else. The conservatory’s concert hall is now surely one of the best venues for chamber music.

Besides refinement of playing, the music also benefited from a rare joie de vivre, issuing forth like a wellspring of bubbling spirits, not least in the sprightly Minuet and mercurial finale. One will never tire of this wide-eyed and undimmed brand of musicianship.

Much less familiar was the Concerto For Strings by the Italian Nino Rota (left) , better known for his film scores such as The Godfather. Its four movements were a study in fine control, from its Bach-like Preludio, ironic waltz-like Scherzo (quoting from Bach’s Anna Magdalena Notebook), impassioned dark shades of the Aria to the witty and wild comedy of the Finale. This is very accessible tonal music, made interesting with mild dissonances, and performed with genuine gusto.

Leaving best for last, Tchaikovsky’s Serenade For Strings is the sure-sell calling card of all-string groups. The Camerata’s opening statement was breathtaking, emphatically putting a stamp on the music. Free of the Russian composer’s famous neuroses, the melodies flowed unabated. The sunny Waltz brought smiles from the players, while the Elegie unfolded with nostalgia and real beauty, yet one of many Tchaikovskian moments to die for.

The folk-music inspired Finale, usually rushed in the name of virtuosity, never felt hurried or driven. The sense of inevitability was never in doubt as the work drew to a rousing close, after which Amoyal paid tribute to two Singaporeans who had studied and performed under his wing. One of them, Foo Say Ming is the leader of re:mix, the crack local group that most resembles the Camerata. There can be no better testament of the universality of music.

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