Tuesday, 19 July 2011

THE ART OF WIND ENSEMBLE 2011 / Audioimage Wind Ensemble / Review

Audioimage Wind Ensemble
Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts
Sunday (17 July 2011)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 19 July 2011 with the title "A whiff of Asia-Pacific with wind ensemble".

The Audioimage Wind Ensemble is a community-based band housed at Siglap South Community Club. Its annual concert helmed by young conductor Clarence Tan was an ambitious 2-hour effort showing why it prides itself as “the finest wind ensemble of the East”.

The concert opened with a transcription of the Bach-Busoni Chaconne. With strict and formal lines lending well to the art of variations, these were read with good sense of proportion and utmost discipline.

Also in the classical domain was the Alto Saxophone Concerto by Russian academic composer Alexander Glazunov. Although written in his unabashed Romantic style, it attempted some jazz-like flourishes, gratefully reciprocated by Ang Yi Xiang’s nimble and good-humoured virtuosity.

There was an Asian-Pacific flavour in four works, beginning with Brian Balmages’s PELE, a French horn concertante work about the Hawaiian goddess of fire. Hornist Alan Kartik’s exuberant part ably shaped the work’s narrative, from peaceable calm to an onslaught of spewing lava before arriving at a final appeasement.

Inspired by Indonesia was Shin’ya Takahashi’s Jalan-Jalan, a symphonic sojourn in Bali. His idea of a stroll was more of a sprint that packed in scenes of village life and closing with a rowdy procession and feast.

Also dominated by an insistent percussion beat was the World Premiere of Singapore Hoh Chung Shih’s Wayang Kulit. The work pitted five widely-spaced brass players whose eructations was not a description of the shadow play but rather an exercise of light and shade, mostly white, grey and jet black.

The late-lamented Leong Yoon Pin’s music was heard for a third consecutive evening. Daybreak and Sunrise, his only original work for wind band, explored the sonority of the medium to the max. Asian-inflected motifs were fleetingly quoted in a pastoral scene that quickened into a Colonial English-styled march. Instead of ending in bombast, it dissipated into a series of repeated passages, as if meaning “Life goes on…”

The final work was Joseph Kreines’s arrangement of the final movement of Gustav Mahler’s mighty Third Symphony. Here one misses the sustaining qualities of strings, which make the music truly memorable. However the burnished warmth of the chorales and overwhelming climaxes gave much to cheer about.

After this, it was an anti-climax to hear as a long encore, the medley from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom Of The Opera. At least the young people in the audience were sent home happy.

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