Monday, 23 August 2010

NIGHT SONGS / MELVIN TAN Vocal Recital / Review

Melvin Tan, Tenor
Shane Thio, Piano
Esplanade Recital Studio
Friday (20 August 2010)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 23 August 2010.

The long-held stereotype that tenors are brawny jocks and pretty brainless can beltos should be forever put to rest on the strength of this song recital. Melvin (note the spelling) Tan was a recent graduate of London’s Royal Academy of Music, and his return to Singapore to further his family’s wine distribution business, can only spell champagne days ahead for the local vocal music scene.
Seldom has a more intelligent and coherent art song programme been drawn, and delivered with a zest and panache that surpassed initial expectation. The idea of night’s mysterious charms is not a new one, but Tan had the audacity to omit the customary Schubert and Schumann Lieder to plump for all-20th century fare.

Beginning with Debussy’s Nuit d’Etoiles and Le Balcon, his expansive yet supple voice filled the hall, ringing with a bright bell-like lustre. With English translations of the French texts projected on the wall behind, it was easy to follow and relate to Tan’s multifarious expressions, which so indelibly shaded each chanson.

German was the principle language on show, with the two most familiar songs by Richard Strauss – Die Nacht and Allerseelen. The positive rarities were the Singapore premieres of Alban Berg’s Seven Early Songs and Wolfgang Erich Korngold’s Songs Of Farewell (both composers below).
Alban Berg & Wolfgang Erich Korngold,
they look like brothers, don't they?
The former dates from 1907, before Berg’s emergence as a giant of atonal modernism. Here Wagner and Mahler’s tonalities are taken to the next level of ambiguity, but the emotions expressed remain vividly etched. Korngold is often credited for inspiring the genre of Hollywood film music, and Tan’s take on his four best-known songs were memorable for the warmth and nostalgia engendered.

Russian romances were represented by Rachmaninov's Six Songs Op.38, where Tan reveled in their melancholy and dark emotions. In Krysolov (The Pied Piper), his sense of comedic timing was infectious, while pianist Shane Thio’s mastery of the intricate and demanding piano parts was admirable.

Their guests, Hong Kong soprano Colette Lam with pianist Miranda Ong, were also excellent in two Debussy songs and Poulenc’s Banalit├ęs. Lam’s faultless vocal control and wide range came close to stealing the show. No matter, both singers were united in Noel Coward’s I’ll See You Again, culminating in an intimate waltz together, a delightful way to say goodbye.

No comments: