Tuesday, 2 March 2010

SSO Concert: Bach to Mozart / Review

Singapore Symphony Orchestra
CHO-LIANG LIN, Violin & Conductor
Sunday (28 February 2010, 5 pm)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 2 March 2010.

Sunday afternoon concerts at Victoria Concert Hall mean one thing: chamber music with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. For the second successive year, the orchestra’s partnership with Artist-in-Residence Cho-Liang Lin bore abundant fruit in its well-run and well-attended chamber series. The Taiwanese-American violinist is an inspiring musician who leads by example.

Just ten string players with harpsichordist Shane Thio produced a full and robust sound for Bach’s Third Brandenburg Concerto. Lin doubled as sometime soloist and leader, and the ensemble reveled in the music’s sprightly rhythms, a far cry from those ponderous big orchestra renditions of the LP era. He also crafted a short improvisation for the super-short second movement, before launching into the contrapuntal paradise of the finale.

Haydn’s Violin Concerto in C major benefited from Lin’s vigorous double-stopping and singing tone, bringing much purpose and poise to this transitional work that bridged the baroque and classical eras. The Adagio was a wellspring of sheer lyricism, played over a gentle plucked string accompaniment while the virtuoso came out for the third movement’s perpetual motion.

Laying down his violin, Lin (left) conducted the second half of the concert. The ability to evoke pathos and deeply felt emotions is a privilege of stringed instruments, and seldom has Grieg’s Two Elegiac Melodies resounded with such vividness. Ethereal violins and mellow cellos all played their part, ranging from a mere whisper to a full-throated cry from a wounded heart.

Two French horns and two oboes entered the fray for Mozart’s early and graceful Symphony No.29 in A major. Victoria Concert Hall seems like the perfect stage for this slender work. The performance was suitably small-scaled, quaint and even dainty, but never lacking in intimacy and refined nuances. The serenade-like slow movement would have been lost in Esplanade Concert Hall’s cavernous ambience, more suited for the behemoths of Bruckner and Mahler.

The concert closed in high spirits, with a playful minuet and joyous romp of a finale that recalled the jaunty tempos of a foxhunt. For those who missed this peach, there remains one more chamber Sunday on 11 April before the Vic closes for a major overhaul.

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