Monday, 28 February 2011

KEVIN LOH Guitar Recital / Review

KEVIN LOH Guitar Recital
Esplanade Concert Hall
Friday (25 February 2011)

This review was published in The Straits Times
on 28 February 2011 with the title
"Kevin wows on guitar".

A little piece of history was made last week. The first ever solo classical guitar recital by a Singaporean guitarist at Esplanade Concert Hall was given by the 13-year-old Kevin Loh, recipient of the prestigious HSBC Youth Excellence Award in 2010. A student of UK’s Yehudi Menuhin School, the teenager’s youth belied an artist of uncommon maturity and poise.

This two-hour long recital showcased him in multi-faceted roles, as solo recitalist and in collaboration with other instrumentalists. The solo segments opened and closed the recital, beginning with Andrew York’s Jubilation and Sunburst. What sounded like mere improvisation soon expanded into an exuberant display of pyrotechnics, which continued into Paganini’s inventive Andantino Variations (from the Gran Sonata)and Paulo Bellinati’s Brazilian dance Drongo.

He performs with very clear articulation, never losing the melodic thread nor pulse of the narrative, and communicates with disarming ease. His technique is prodigious, yet there is no virtuosity for its own sake, a case of facility serving the expressive soul of the music.

Together with string players from the Orchestra of Music Makers, they performed Vivaldi’s Concerto in D major (RV.93), originally scored for the lute. Ever sensitive to his partners, Loh’s solo part transcended the ensemble effortlessly, making most of the slow movement’s seamless serenade. Even better was Malcolm Arnold’s bittersweet Serenade, with its pastoral musings finding a brief diversion of playfulness before returning to a sublime respite.

With Xpose! guitar ensemble led by Ow Leong San, there was a movement of Bach from the Violin Concerto in A minor (BWV.1041) and the unbuttoned gypsy elan of Monti’s Czardas. Loh then joined his former teacher Ernest Kwok in Christian Gottlieb Scheidler’s Sonata For 2 Guitars, in three movements of classical era finery. The quasi-Mozart charms were hard to resist.

Two contrasting solo pieces by Mauro Giuliani and Roland Dyen’s Fuoco from Libre Sonatine completed the evening’s unmitigated pleasure. For the latter, Loh lit up the stage with a fiery rhythmic drive and close with percussive drumming on the guitar’s wooden parts. A very soulful encore of the Main Theme from film composer John Williams’s Schindler’s List showed a pensive side that was also refreshing.

The best part was this: Kevin Loh will continue to develop and mature. Will he someday become Singapore’s version of the Australian guitar giant John Williams?
Kevin Loh @ Esplanade was presented by HSBC.

1 comment:

Chang Tou Liang said...

Thanks to Phan Ming Yen for correcting me.Kevin was not the first-ever guitarist to perform a solo recital at Esplanade Concert Hall (it was Yang Xuefei) but was the first Singaporean guitarist to do so.