Monday, 8 March 2010

BEATS and PIECES / Low Shao Ying and Low Shao Suan / Review

Low Shao Ying & Low Shao Suan, Pianos
Esplanade Recital Studio
Sunday (7 March 2010)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 10 March 2010.

In what is likely to be the most important 2-piano recital for contemporary local music in years, the sister act of Low Shao Ying and Low Shao Suan displayed the range of their performing and composing abilities. Both received their musical education in Paris, so it was little surprise that the programme was predominantly Gallic in flavour and sensibility.

The concert however began with Dane Martin Akerwall’s A Perfect View (2010, left), a tonal and meditative work that exuded impressionist colours and a New Age feel. Soft chimes dressed with arabesques echoing from each keyboard made for a study in quiet serenity.

Bells of a totally different kind tolled in the World Premiere of Singaporean Tan Chan Boon’s 7 and 9 (2010), also titled Along The Seine. In a tribute to Maurice Ravel, a haunted milieu recalling Le gibet (The Gallows) from Gaspard de la nuit pervaded the opening, leading to the slowest of slow Valses nobles et sentimentales before a Satiesque coda of long-held chords and silences.

Curiously no French composers featured but the trio of waltzes by Canadian Jean Chatillon and the sisters themselves were echt-French in aesthete and feeling. Shao Ying’s Valse de printemps (1998) mused on the C major triad, filled with a Poulenc-like gaiety and insouciance. Shao Suan’s Winterland (1998) was darker in shade, reflective with bittersweet moments.

Mastery of sonorities on two pianos reached a zenith with Elegy For The Beloved by American pianist and pedagogue Thomas Hecht (left), now a Singapore permanent resident. The sixth movement from a 65-minute suite What The Virgin Saw (1997), its touching Messiaen-inspired contemplation of Mary at the fallen body of Jesus was a gradual crescendo in the manner of Samuel Barber’s Adagio.

The ear candy came to a jarring halt with the most modern-sounding piece, Hong Kong-born Kawai Shiu’s Jade Luster (2010, left). With the pianos separated to extreme ends of the floor, the Lows emerged wearing gloves à la Glenn Gould and looking more like kick-boxers. Playing off scores projected on laptop screens, the pugilistic ritual of tone clusters commenced, beginning quietly and closing as nosily as possible. All through the back-to-tonality swing of the pendulum, this World Premiere – sympathetically delivered - showed that the avant-garde is still alive and kicking.
Beats & Pieces was presented as part of Esplanade's Spectrum Series for contemporary music.

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