TWO GREAT CONCERTOS / Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Esplanade Concert Hall / Saturday (9 April 2011)
An edited version of this review was published in The Straits Times on 11 April 2011 with the title "Orchestral rising stars excite and thrill".
Whoever named this concert probably forgot to take into account the short 5-minute work that opened the evening’s fare. Through Bifocals by young Singaporean woman composer Yuan Peiying (below) is a ravishing morsel of atmospheric orchestral writing.
Almost impressionist by half, Evgueni Brokmiller’s flute and Lynnette Seah’s violin emerged from a gentle murmur of lush textures, and just when pace began to gather, it ended abruptly. It was as if someone had decreed, “Your time is up!” Sounding like a prelude to a larger canvas, possibly a symphony, one looks forward to more music from this talented source.
The first of the titular two great concertos was Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto, given a highly personal account by the young Venezuelan Sergio Tiempo. Alarm bells usually go off when upstarts attempt to “interpret” familiar favourites. However the liberties taken by him, either by placing accents in unsuspecting spots or racing away at breakneck tempi, were judiciously chosen. While still respecting the score’s integrity, these had the effect of enhancing the visceral thrill of the music. These were most apparent in the slow movement’s skittish waltz episode, the headlong rush into the Alla Breve finale and the intoxicating lead-up to its climax. Accuracy and clarity were never a question for these prodigious fingers, spitting fire at giddying speeds.
Ladies and gentlemen, this may be the closest one gets to actually having the volcanic force of Martha Argerich descend on the Esplanade. Chalk this as one of the most exciting and satisfying performances of our times.
While Rachmaninov revelled in risky hi-jinks and dynamic extremes, Bartok’s Concerto For Orchestra provided a safe refuge of sorts. A sign of maturity by SSO Young Associate Conductor Darrell Ang was his refusal to let instincts run roughshod over what the mind directs. He marshalled the forces for a sober and taut reading, one which allowed the instrumentalists to display their prowess, individually and as an ensemble.
All the soloists shone, for example the various woodwind pairs in the Game Of Couples, Roberto Alvarez’s humble piccolo in the Elegia, Brokmiller’s flute arabesques and well-timed trombone flatulences in the Interrupted Intermezzo. The finale benefited from this virtuosity harnessed with discipline, the valedictory fugue blazing the way to a breathless conclusion. Although this was not a gala concert, it felt like one.