Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Living with LOKE HOE KIT & NICHOLAS LOH / Review

with NICHOLAS LOH, Piano
The Arts House
Monday (21 December 2009)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 24 December 2009.

Talented young piano and violin soloists abound in our growing musical scene, all thanks to the platform created by our National Piano & Violin Competition, but cellists are at a premium. The American-trained Loke Hoe Kit is probably the most visible local cellist to emerge since Leslie Tan of the T’ang Quartet, and one with an attitude to match.

Sporting a gelled-up and tinted coiffure sprinkled with tinsel, he resembles more a Korean matinee idol, but make no mistake – Loke is totally serious. Performing an hour-long recital completely from memory, he exuded a strong, brawny tone that served the opening work, Frenchman Edouard Lalo’s Cello Concerto in D minor, to a tee.

Well attuned to its fiery Spanish-flavoured idiom, he engaged the music’s inherent drama and rhythmic intricacies with much sympathy and aplomb. The slow middle movement saw this skilful shifting of gears, from the elegiac to whimsical, with a natural ease that was disarming. Fireworks flew in the finale, aided by Nicholas Loh’s resonant and almost overpowering piano accompaniment.

The evening in The Living Room, an informal venue popular with younger musicians, got progressively lighter. Schumann’s Three Fantasy Pieces (Op.73) provided Loke the chance to display a more gentle and lyrical side to his playing. A seamless, melting cantabile distinguished the first two pieces, while the third pulled out the stops with a show of passion and romanticism in full flush.

Both cellist and pianist traversed a rhythmic minefield for Astor Piazzolla’s Le Grand Tango, (composer pictured left), but soon established a firm grip on the vital pulse. This is popular music expertly crafted for the concert stage, and the duo gamely brought out its plethora of sultry and sentimental melodies, evoking much nostalgia and fleeting bygone memories.

There was a Yo-Yo Ma-like feel to the encores, when Loke introduced possible Singapore’s only Appalachian dulcimer (left) exponent Ivan Ng in two light-hearted dance tunes. Plucked and bowed strings added an extra bit of gloss to the proceedings, which had already served up its fair share of adventure and discovery.

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