Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Violin and Piano Recital / Edward Tan and Sim Yi Kai / Review

Violin & Piano Recital
Esplanade Recital Studio
Sunday (1 August 2010)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 3 August 2010.

Very often one goes to a violin and piano recital expecting the violinist to be the protagonist, with the pianist as a mere accompanist. This recital had both violinist and pianist sharing roles as equals, with opportunities for both to shine under the spotlight on their own.

In Beethoven’s Sonata in C minor (Op.30 No.2), it was pianist Sim Yi Kai who drew first blood. His shaping of the opening movement’s first theme was excellent and resolute, setting the general tone for this gritty essay. His dominance was no surprise, Beethoven having cast his violin sonatas as works for piano, accompanied by violin.
Violinist Edward Tan, concertmaster of the Orchestra of the Music Makers, was no shrinking violet either, answering each piano entry with ripostes of its own. Alternating melody with counterpoint, this give and take of interchanging parts in its four movements made for a gripping whole. Beethoven, whose dramatics was fueled by coming to grips with deafness, would have approved.

Brahms’ stand-alone Scherzo in C minor was a logical follow-up, bursting with Beethovenian vigour and the inevitable big tune. Tan’s solo of Lithuanian composer Vytautas Barkauskas’ (left) short Partita was an encyclopaedic showcase of modernist techniques. Its alternation between serial and tonal moments was unsettling, but Tan’s razor-sharp reflexes and unnerving control made it a memorable outing.

Sim, more often seen on stage as page-turner for the uniquitous Lim Yan, held his own in Chopin’s Andante Spianato & Grande Polonaise Brillante (Op.22). His sense of smooth cantabile in the former was contrasted with an inexorable forward drive in the latter. There were some missed notes, but he captured the spirit well.

Bringing on the biggest cheers was Wieniawski’s Variations on an Original Theme (Op.15, composer pictured left), where over Sim’s orchestra-like partnership, Tan’s negotiating of its trickiest stunts – especially the fiendish variation with left hand pizzicati – was breathtaking to say the least. The first of their two encores was a total charmer; Edward Elgar’s La Capricieuse was delivered with a delectable charm and humour that was next to irresistible.

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