Monday, 7 December 2009

Singapore National Youth Orchestra: Prelude to a Symphony / Review

Singapore National Youth Orchestra
Victoria Concert Hall
Friday (4 December 2009)

An edited version of this review was published in The Straits Times on 7 December 2009.

The prowess of young Singaporean musicians today is often proven by the demanding musical programmes they deliver in concert. The latest offering by the Singapore National Youth Orchestra (SNYO) does not look out of place in the subscription series of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

Beginning with Debussy’s Prelude to The Afternoon Of The Fawn, young Jasper Goh Chien Teng’s confident flute solo immediately set the standard for the rest of the orchestra to match. His colleagues did so, albeit in fits and starts, this gorgeously written but elusive music probably being new to their palates. The lush verdant strings however came through beautifully, saving the fawn from slipping to a deep slumber.

The orchestra’s next task was to partner the Canada-based Japanese violinist Yosuke Kawasaki in Russian composer Alexander Glazunov’s compact but showy Violin Concerto. Although marked Moderato, the first movement ambled along at a pedestrian pace, diminishing the virtuosity that was on show. It got better in the slow movement with Kawasaki’s lovely singing tone coming to the fore. Excellent trumpet fanfares heralded the festive finale, one befitting the glitz of Christmas trees on the back of the stage.

Having enjoyed three young orchestras grapple with Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony within the space of six months this year, it was thus unmitigated pleasure to witness a rare performance of the Russian’s Third Symphony in A minor (Op.44). Most of the SNYO’s best qualities came through in this reading, guided by award-winning Singaporean conductor Joshua Tan Kangming’s (left) sympathetic direction.

There was an unerring sense of direction and inexorability in the proceedings, brought about by the composer’s exile and pangs of homesickness. And how the cellos sang the bittersweet principal theme, one inspired by that same section of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Rachmaninov’s favourite band.

The peaks and troughs of the music were clearly delineated, and traversed with much wide-eyed enthusiasm and diligence, none more so in the central movement. The orchestra engaged in its aching nostalgia, and with a flick of switch trooped to a martial beat. It was never going to be the perfect rendition, but the thunderous acclaim indicated a common shared thought: every person on stage had their hearts in the right places.


oli said...

i think the flute solo in the Debussy was played by Jasper Goh Chien Teng

Chang Tou Liang said...

Thanks, I've already amended the name.