Monday, 25 April 2011

SSO Concert: Midori Gala / Review

Singapore Symphony Orchestra / Esplanade Concert Hall / Saturday (23 April 2011)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 25 April 2011 with the title "Goh Keng Swee: In memoriam".

The gala concert of all Russian fare began with Rachmaninov’s Vocalise, dedicated to the memory of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s founding patron, the late Dr Goh Keng Swee, whose passage from our realm took place eleven months ago.

The apparent tardiness of this memorial was never explained, but the gesture, carried out without fuss or ceremony, and attended by his family, would have been one he approved. He would have also been excited by the high standards – the term world-class becomes unavoidable here – attained his brainchild.

The big bluster from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Festival Overture was one that turned an observance of faith from the ceremonial to the rowdily celebratory. Solo passages from violin, cello, flute and clarinet were spot on and the ensemble, especially trombones and trumpets towards the end, blazed with a magisterial authority.

The Japanese former prodigy Midori’s first appearance with the SSO was something truly special. Those sated with Tchaikovsky’s ever-popular Violin Concerto would have to reassess their stand after this most magnificent of performances. Her opening entry - a world apart from Lara St.John’s flaccid attempt from two nights before – was so breathtaking as to defy words.

Her shaping of every phrase and passage was thoughtful and perfectly weighted. Armed with flawless intonation and immaculate fingering, hers was playing to dream about. It was as if Tchaikovsky himself had bared his soul through her ex-Hubermann Guarneri del Gesu, revealing a world of grief and inner torment.

The inherent flashiness was never made to sound gratituous, and seldom has the central Canzonetta been sung with such desolation. The final fireworks seemed almost an obligatory afterthought, but handled with such convincing panache that a standing ovation seemed mandatory, one spontaneously accorded by no less than the President of Singapore himself.

The Third Symphony by Rachmaninov which concluded the concert was no anti-climax. Conducted by Music Director Shui Lan from memory, it also underpinned the orchestra’s sympathy for Russian music. The rendition brought out an aching nostalgia, one amply illustrated by the wonderful cellos in the first movement’s main theme.

The second movement, almost slow movement and scherzo rolled into one, was paced with utmost immediacy, with never a superfluous moment. Only in the finale did its short-windedness and abrupt ending seemed a come down. Blame the composer, not the orchestra, which otherwise had a superlative outing.

1 comment:

Chang Tou Liang said...

Midori's encore was the Fugue from Bach's unaccompanied Sonata in G minor (BWV. 1001).