Wednesday, 29 December 2010

3 Best Classical Concerts of 2010

As published in The Straits Times on 29 December 2010, here are my picks for the 3 best classical concerts in Singapore for 2010. Indeed we were spoilt for choice, which is why I have included more than three top concerts. The true winners, however, are the lucky concert-goers who get to experience classical music as it should be performed - with unwavering commitment and passion.
MAHLER Resurrection Symphony
Orchestra of the Music Makers & Combined Choruses
10 July 2010, Esplanade Concert Hall

The Austrian composer Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) has been well-served in his anniversary year, with memorable performances of symphonies by the Singapore Symphony and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras. Pride of place however goes to the young musicians of the Orchestra of Music Makers, joined by the Singapore and Queensland Festival Choruses, with their stupendous showing in Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony.

Conducted by Chan Tze Law, this blockbuster not only demonstrated an amazing maturity for the barely 2-year-old ensemble, but also a wealth of prodigious talent among the musicians, whose average age was 20-21 years old. The vocal soloists were locals too – mezzo-soprano Rebecca Chellapah and soprano Jeong AeRee – making this a truly Singaporean affair.

Besides being feted in the pages of The Straits Times, this concert also received high praise from music critics from Japan, Canada and UK.

Vocal / Choral
VERDI Requiem
Singapore Symphony Chorus & Combined Choruses
with Singapore Symphony Orchestra
17 April 2010, Esplanade Concert Hall

The Singapore Symphony Chorus marked its 30th year with one of the great masterpieces of the symphonic choral repertoire – Verdi’s Requiem with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra

These days, this venerable institution is augmented by voices from three other choirs, and the combined strength of 180-200 singers led by Lim Yau is a force to be reckoned with. The fearsome Dies Irae, delivered with awe-inspiring magnificence and with brass resonating from different parts of the hall, provided genuine spine-tingling moments that will remain long in the memory.

Honorable mention also go to The Philharmonic Chamber Chorus’ A Bridge Of Silk (18 September 2010 / Esplanade Recital Studio), an a cappella recital of contemporary Asian songs conducted by Lim Yau, and the superb artsong recital Night Songs by young tenor Melvin Tan (20 August 2010, Esplanade Recital Studio), accompanied by pianist Shane Thio, which showcased rarities by Korngold, Berg, Rachmaninov and Debussy.

Chamber Music
LIM HUI Violin Recital
20 June 2010 / Esplanade Recital Studio
TAKE 5 Chausson Concert
1 September 2010 / Esplanade Recital Studio
ZARA Schumann Fantasies
28 November 2010 / Esplanade Recital Studio

There was so much good chamber music on show that honours were evenly divided. Lim Hui, 2nd prize winner in the 2003 National Violin Competition, has blossomed to become a very fine virtuoso, one combining poise and purpose in her playing. Her demanding recital of Beethoven, Brahms, Pärt and Prokofiev, partnered by her cousin pianist Lim Yan, was a joy to behold.

Lim Yan and violinist Chan Yoong Han helmed their piano quintet Take 5 to give the Singapore premiere of Ernest Chausson’s Concert for violin, piano & string quartet, a monumental work of light, shade and overwrought emotions. A more passionate yet sensitive performance would be hard to find.

Zara is the international chamber group formed by former violin prodigy Tang Tee Khoon, playing on the National Arts Council’s 1750 J.B.Guadagnini violin. Their tribute to Robert Schumann and his circle was both moving and technically impeccable.

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