Monday, 1 February 2010

3rd Singapore Chamber Music Festival: ROBERT, CLARA & JOHANNES / Review

3rd Singapore Chamber Music Festival
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concert Hall
Sunday (31 January 2010)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 3 February 2010.

There are many nooks and crannies of the chamber music repertoire that deserve to be explored but for a number of reasons remain obscure. The Singapore Chamber Music Festival, organised by The Chamber Players, has played a massive part in introducing these to a receptive local audience. The first concert of the festival’s third edition was an excellent example of this.

The eternal triangle of Robert Schumann, his wife Clara and the young Johannes Brahms was celebrated with a piano trio each, performed by nine musicians representing a Who’s Who of classical music in Singapore today. In lieu of programme notes, each performance was preceded by carefully chosen words from the ever-thoughtful Dennis Lee.
He was also the pianist in Robert Schumann’s Piano Trio No.2 in F major (Op.80), bringing freshness and exuberance to the music, trading interwoven melodic lines with violinist Ike See and cellist Natasha Liu (above). This is an unfamiliar work, one brimming with energy and optimism, yet balanced by a gentle lilting lyricism. The very crisp articulation by the threesome in the skittish staccato-filled finale was a joy.
Even rarer still was Clara Schumann’s Piano Trio in G minor (Op.17), the slightest work on the menu. Oozing Mendelssohnian lightness and charm, its salon-like quality was delightful and unpretentious. Ironically, an all-male trio of pianist Lim Yan, violinist Seah Huan Yuh and cellist Leslie Tan (above) all clad in Chinese New Year hongbao red did the honours, alternating sensitivity with the odd spot of virility.
The greatest of the three trios fell to Brahms, forever rumoured to be more than platonic soul buddies with Clara. His Piano Trio No.1 in B major (Op.8) was the longest and most expressive in the evening. It also had the most memorable melodies. Two women, pianist Toh Chee Hung and violinist Qian Zhou, partnered cellist Chan Wei Shing (above) in a performance that might be described as rough and ready in parts.

It nevertheless had enough passion and the sense of being on the edge to make it absorbing. One would easily accept a handful of wrong notes here and there than sit through than a squeaky clean but sterile outing. The intimacy of chamber music at its most sincere was more than well served.
Long-time cello pedagogue Mrs Herminia Ilano
(extreme left) was honoured at the festival.
This concert and the 3rd Singapore Chamber Music Festival was organised by The Chamber Players, and supported by the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music.

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