Sunday, 27 December 2009

THE BEST AND WORST OF 2009 / CLASSICAL MUSIC IN SINGAPORE

An edited version of this list was published in The Sunday Times on 27 December 2009.

THE BEST OF 2009

Best young local group:

There were three performances of Rachmaninov’s hour-long Second Symphony by young local orchestras this year, but pride of place goes to that by the one-year-old Orchestra of the Music Makers led by Chan Tze Law. It soared from the word go, fuelled by an irrepressible momentum, took all kinds of risks but communicated in a manner that was utterly compelling. HSBC’s Youth Excellence Award could not have gone to a more deserving group of über-youths.

Best début:

Paganinian mane flew as his sonorous violin vibrato shone through like a laser in works by Vitali, Beethoven, Moszkowski, Trachtenberg and Ravel. Has there been a more stunning début recital than that served up by Yang Shuxiang, partnered by pianist Khor Shang Jin? This outsized talent has however lost his glorious locks, and is now serving a higher cause – National Service. His ORD could not come soon enough!

Acts of inspiration and courage:

A tie between SSO Young Associate Conductor Darrell Ang (far left) and young pianist Azariah Tan (left). Called on to replace an indisposed Yu Long, Ang had just two days to lead the SSO in an all-Tchaikovsky concert, and conducted a magnificent performance of the Fifth Symphony completely from memory. Despite his progressive deafness, Tan bested 27 other pianists to win First Prize in the Senior piano category of the National Piano & Violin Competition. His performed the first movement of Chopin’s First Piano Concerto as if his life depended on it.

Best foreign act:

Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu looked like she was thoroughly enjoying herself at the opera gala in this year’s Singapore Sun Festival. Her gig with tenor Marius Manea and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic translated into an evening of sparkling high spirits, genuine spontaneity and much vivacity. Not to mention that quite distracting extremely low cut fiery red gown…

Most underrated:

The free concerts at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music present music performed at an amazingly high level. The recent piano concerto competition finals was a showcase in point; four piano concertos on display, won by the stylish Khoo Hui Ling performing Gershwin’s jazzy Concerto in F.

THE WORST OF 2009

The worst by far:

Chinese pianist Li Yundi’s nightmare showing in Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra takes the wooden spoon. It was a crude, shabby and totally unprofessional solo performance, full of exaggerations, lapses and wrong notes. This pianist used to record for Deutsche Grammophon? Little wonder they off-loaded him. Good riddance.

None too distinguished:

The concept of a multimedia piano recital – music, poetry and videography – was a laudable one, just a pity that Dutch pianist Monique Copper could not deliver the notes with any accuracy or proficiency. With a technique perilous at sea for most of the evening, her water-themed concert came close to a washout.

Clueless and deluded:

A young pianist (best left unnamed) in the Artist category of the National Piano & Violin Competition stumbled from Chopin to Bach, then Debussy to Scott Joplin. As the jury picked progressively easier pieces for him to play, wrong notes piled up, closing with a monstrous raspberry. Now was a good time for the floor to swallow up both piano and pianist.

Most overrated:

Still on the piano, a music school (best kept secret) presented its annual student concert promising musical enchantment and keyboard bravura, but delivered barely a whimper. A 14-year-old playing Liszt’s great Sonata in B minor sounds like an exciting prospect, except when it is the musical equivalent of Gurmit Singh playing Hamlet. Heaven forbid.

1 comment:

Vincent4Wang said...

I'd vote SSO Mahler No.2 with John Nelson the best of 2009. For the Li Yundi concert, I'd say the most disappointed instead of the worst: )