Monday, 15 November 2010

Its Official, the world's music critics love OMM's Mahler!

For those who thought I had a soft spot for Singapore's Orchestra of the Music Makers, I am pleased that I 'm not alone in thinking that OMM is the best thing for Singapore classical music since the coming of Lan Shui, the Esplanade and Yong Siew Toh Conservatory. Here are excerpts from the great reviews from three international music critics about OMM's Mahler Resurrection concert on 10 July 2010.

Robert Markow (Canada) writes authoritatively for a number of American-based music journals. He is the one North-American based critic who truly knows the music scene of this part of the world.

Singapore’s Orchestra of the Music Makers

“The opening notes of Mahler’s symphony set the tone for the entire work—startling contrasts of dynamics, rhythmic precision, controlled balance of forces and a pervasive spirit of driving energy. There were moments of beatific stasis and terrifying walls of sound. Never, in half a century of hearing dozens of performances of this symphony live and on disc, have I experienced such terror at that moment in the finale when drums make their agonizingly slow crescendo from the merest rumble to a deafening roar. Also in the finale, the initial presentation of the “resurrection” chorale in the brass was as close to perfection as I have heard anywhere.”...

“Tze Law Chan maintained a clear sense of purpose and direction throughout. Momentum never flagged, his approach had sensitivity without sentimentality, and there were numerous moments to relish in many of his exaggerated rubatos and dynamic contrasts. The sense of security and confidence shown by the orchestra belied the fact that probably not one member had ever played the Mahler Second before, yet it sounded as if it were in their blood.”...

“Imagine for a moment that you are about to graduate from high school. You have enjoyed playing in a good school orchestra for two or three years, but now you’re moving on in life. You’re set to pursue a career in medicine (or nanotechnology or communications or whatever) but you desperately want to continue playing in an orchestra. Where do you go? You go to Singapore.”

Robert Markow

Satoru Takaku (Japan) travels the world in search of great music. He's been to Singapore quite a few times, and OMM quite an impression on him.

Orchestra of the Music Makers in Singapore
Asian version of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra

“I happened to listen to Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony performed by the Asian version of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra (of Venezuela) while I was in Singapore… I was impressed with the technique of the individuals and the ensemble, and the enthusiasm of the musicians… Singapore has the potential to play a central role in the classical music of Asia, if they could have an Asian version of “El Sistema” in place, with financial support from international corporations and the nation, and gather countless gifted young musicians in China and Southeast Asia.”

Satoru Takaku
(Mostly Classic)

Dr Marc Rochester (UK), the only Gramophone reviewer resident in Southeast Asia, never minces his words in his interesting and highly readable blog ( If he has anything good to say, he really means it!

Mahler Mania

The Orchestra of the Music Makers is, by any standards, an exceptional bunch. It plays with the polish and security of a fully professional band, small woodwind intonation problems and occasionally over-enthusiastic brass notwithstanding, and while there were small areas where ensemble might have been tighter, there were very many more areas where ensemble, balance and overall coordination were nigh-on perfect. I don’t recall ever having heard those great percussion crescendos so vividly delivered, the “Last Trump” and the “Nightingale” so potently evoked or, indeed, that one final magnificent chord so sublimely sustained. And as for the off-stage brass and the various players dotted around the hall, that was a moment of pure, unadulterated magic. This was, truly, an epic performance.

But the evening was all about Mahler and, if I feel I’ve had a surfeit of Mahler by the time the month is out, the performance of The Music Makers Orchestra will live in my memory for many years to come. I doubt that this anniversary year will throw up anything quite so rewarding again and if I ever claim to be “tired of Mahler”, just remind me of The Music Makers Orchestra of Singapore; guaranteed to inspire even the most jaded of critical palettes.

Marc Rochester
(Dr Marc’s Blog)

And finally, just to rehash what I had earlier written for The Straits Times.
Sonic youth conquer the world

The euphoric flush of youth had arrived, vociferously delivered by 350 young musicians and singers at the Esplanade. Never has there been a greater display of musical audacity, shored up by stoutest of hearts and truest of intentions. Putting things into perspective, it took the Singapore Symphony Orchestra 15 years before giving the Singapore premiere of Gustav Mahler’s monumental Second Symphony in 1994. Two years was all that was needed for the Orchestra of Music Makers (OMM) and its guiding light Chan Tze Law to pull off that same Olympian feat, and with some to spare...

The cataclysmic finale provided the tour de force of the evening, a hell-for-leather ride that skirted the abyss before the final choral apotheosis. Brass, on and off the stage, worked overtime and brilliantly. The 220-strong chorus’ collective whisper was rapt and mysterious, blending beautifully with soprano Jeong Ae Ree’s ethereal melismata. When they took to their feet for the valedictory proclamation of “Auferstehen” (Resurrection), it was to spine-tingling effect.

Tonight they have conquered the world. Goodness only knows what our sonic youth will accomplish in ten years’ time.

Chang Tou Liang
(The Straits Times)

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