Monday, 10 January 2011

OMM Goes To The Movies / Review

Orchestra of the Music Makers
Chan Te Law, Conductor
Esplanade Concert Hall
Saturday (8 January 2011)

This review was published in The Straits Times
on 10 January 2011 with the title "Magical music from movies".

After conquering the lofty peaks of Mahler symphonies in the past year, the Orchestra of the Music Makers (OMM) could be forgiven for playing something lighter, such as movie music. But make no mistake, the intrepid group of youngsters still assembled over 120 players for this tribute to Hollywood blockbusters.

With the establishment of atonality and serialism in 20th century music, the Romantic composers had emigrated to Beverly Hills, California, where they founded a new genre that was to become the most heard music on the planet. Venerable names such as Wolfgang Erich Korngold and Miklos Rozsa featured prominently in this concert conducted with total dedication and command by Chan Tze Law.

Korngold’s Violin Concerto, popularised by Jascha Heifetz, contained music from four movies including the Oscar-winning Anthony Adverse. To this lyrical work, Singaporean violinist Edward Tan (left), OMM’s concertmaster, was a paradigm of polish and finesse. Every melody was clothed with loving caresses, topped with flawless intonation. And he did not shy away from attacking the more tricky bits like a skilled swordsman.

Rozsa’s Ben Hur Suite, with its naval battle, chariot race and biblical miracles, benefited from the inclusion of the 44-voice Victoria Chorale (Nelson Kwei, Chorus-master), whose wordless singing and chants of Alleluia provided that extra dimension to the Technicolor spectacular on stage.

Among living film composers, John Williams loomed large. A certain generation of filmgoers will be familiar with his Star Wars, Harry Potter and Superman music and lesser-known scores like Amistad and Hook. The added impact was in how well these were played, especially by sumptuous strings and emboldened brass. Pride of place however goes to the woodwinds, whose handling of Nimbus 2000, Harry Potter’s trusty broomstick, was perfection itself.

There was also a nod to mainstream classical composers, Aaron Copland and Gustav Mahler, for Fanfare for the Common Man (Saving Private Ryan) and Adagietto from the Fifth Symphony (Death in Venice) respectively. Hans Zimmer and Elton John’s Lion King highlights kept the even younger set past their bedtimes. Here a choir of double the size would have been welcome for Hakuna Matata and Can You Feel The Love Tonight?

No doubt about it, this was the best concert of film music ever to grace Singapore stages.

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