Thursday, 23 September 2010


SCO IN PARIS A Sneak Preview
Singapore Chinese Orchestra
Tsung Yeh, Conductor
SCO Concert Hall
Wednesday (22 September 2010)

Parisians will get a taste of Singapore when the Singapore Chinese Orchestra performs at the Musée du Quai Branly on two evenings in October, part of the Singapour Festivarts exchange programme between the two nations. But what will they get to hear? Singaporean music, Chinese music or Asian music?

The one-hour programme devised for 25 instrumentalists by SCO Music Director Yeh Tsung was an excellent showcase of the orchestra’s virtuosity, and had a little bit of everything. It was however unfortunate that no Singaporean composers were represented. The Nanyang segment (incorporating music of Indo-Malayan flavour) came from the Malaysian composer Yii Kah Hoe’s Buka Panggang, his musical vision of an overture to a wayang kulit play.

The sheng’s piercing timbre and wails of the diyin suona opened this ten-minute tone poem that gradually expanded into a full-scale processional replete with kampung drumming. This was not Chinese music per se, for its essence lay somewhere lying far south, much nearer the equator. But could it pass off as Singaporean? Perhaps so, if we were not so busy sacrificing our heritage for modern trappings, IRs, Formula One and their like.

The middle two numbers were chamber music. Xing Jie (Strolling Down The Street), a Jiangnan melody played by seven players was the most traditional and recognisably Chinese work. Not so, Hongkonger Chan Hing Yan’s Seven Images of the Moon scored for erhu, pipa, guzheng and percussion. A work where John Cage-like silences and pauses were as vital as the intimate instrumental sounds, its static and minimalist leanings provided an unusual and almost soporific contrast.
The strongest impression came from Extase by Paris-based Chinese composer Chen Qigang, Olivier Messiaen’s last student and better known as the Music Director for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Guest soloist Jean-Louis Capezzali’s evocative oboe solo began the work, which rhapsodically swung from contemplative to wildly kinetic, as its title implied. Fragments of an Oriental theme emerged, gradually coalescing into something discernibly Chinese as the Frenchman’s fiendish riffs tore through the collage of raucous sound for an energetic finish.

This was not the usual fare served up at subscription concerts, but for a French audience more familiar with Ensemble Intercontemporain and Boulez musings, the Singapore Chinese Orchestra will be more than well received. In fact, it stakes a claim at the vanguard of music’s cutting edge.

No comments: