Monday, 8 February 2010

Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concerto Competition Prizewinners Concert / Review

Yong Siew Toh Conservatory
Saturday (6 February 2010)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 8 February 2010.

Regulars to the free concerts at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory know that the annual highlight is the finals of the concerto competition, where its top instrumentalists get to perform with the Conservatory Orchestra. With the competitive element eliminated this year, what remains is a celebratory concert, which proved to be a good thing.

Firstly, the inequality of comparing performances on winds, brass, percussion, strings and piano is no longer an issue. Secondly, the undue pressure is off the young soloists, such that only musical values would prevail.

Hou Chuan-An (Taiwan) was the very relaxed yet confident protagonist in Johann Hummel’s (left) popular Trumpet Concerto in E flat major, where his bright and clear tone was matched by agility and showmanship. Pity about the paucity of trumpet concertos from the great masters, as this work from Mozart’s most famous student is decidedly second-rate. Apart from a sizzling Rondo finale, the first movement is foursquare and forgettable, while the slow movement a blatant rip-off from Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.21 (K.467).

No such problems with Robert Schumann’s (left) masterly Cello Concerto in A minor (Op.129),where the arresting stage-presence of Wu Daidai (China) held sway. Not only does she have full-measure of the work’s yearning intensity, her ingratiating sound served the bittersweet music well. The orchestral partnership was least satisfactory here, with spots of hesitancy and the woodwinds arriving late in the opening three notes. The important second cello part in the slow movement was also barely audible.

The support from Wang Ya-Hui’s big band was however close to excellent in George Gershwin’s (left) Piano Concerto In F, where the swagger of big brassy strains dominated. Through this bluster emerged a glittering performance by Khoo Hui Ling (Singapore), her sense of the bluesy idiom, swing and rhythm impeccable, with a macho mastery of cascading octaves and chords.

Whoever thought that one could attend university to learn how to play jazz? This is a reality in the 21st century, and judging by the quality of musicians our conservatory produces, this nation need not fear about being a “cultural desert” ever again.

1 comment:

chanchilla said...

Hey Dr Chang! Posted my review on my blog too! Funny that Straits Times omitted your point that the Hummel Concerto is foursquare and forgettable haha..