Tuesday, 31 August 2010

POPULAR CLASSICS / Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra / Review

Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra
Singapore Conference Hall
Sunday (29 August 2010)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 31 August 2010.

The Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra (BHSO) is Singapore’s only community-based orchestra. Since 1986, it has provided an invaluable platform for non-professional musicians, students and budding soloists to perform the great classics in public. Its latest concert was a good example of egalitarianism at work.
The guest conductor was Seah Kar Heng, better known as a mechanical engineering professor specialising in racing cars and all-round renaissance man. The soloists were members of the Incursion Trio (below), which performed Beethoven’s Triple Concerto in C major (Op.56). Although not the German master’s greatest effort by a long shot, it is the only example of the genre in the active repertoire.

Cellist Brandon Voo, the chief protagonist, cogently presented his opening statement, later joined by his partners violinist Siew Yi Li and pianist Beatrice Lin. Balance between the three young professionals, who have been playing together for about a year, was generally good, but problems arose when the orchestra joined the fray.
Cellist Brandon Voo, pianist Beatrice Lin,
conductor Seah Kar Heng & violinist Siew Yi Li (from L)
Mozart’s Don Giovanni Overture opened the concert, its stern opening chords and an introduction foretelling the grave final scene contrasted with the lively main body. Although the sound was anaemic and lacked homogeneity, the story was conscientiously conveyed.
The most satisfying orchestral performance came in Mendelssohn’s Fourth Symphony in A major, also known as the Italian Symphony. For its outset, Seah’s charges got the throbbing rhythm spot on, and the pulsating spirit of the sunny work never flagged. The second movement was also coherently delivered, its slow march-like procession paced with discipline and character.

There were some rough spots in the flowing third movement, but the sweeping intensity for the final Saltarello, a swirling Italian dance, made the journey worthwhile. The intricate counterpoint was overcome with some degree of caution, but that was never an impediment to a final decisive flourish.

The encore, the rousing Wedding March from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, was dedicated to Seah’s wife. Engineers, contrary to popular stereotype, can be romantic souls too.

No comments: