Monday, 11 July 2011

SCO Concert: Colours of the Wind / Review

COLOURS OF THE WIND / Singapore Chinese Orchestra / Esplanade Concert Hall

Saturday (9 July 2011)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 11 July 2011 with the title "East meets west in perfect harmony".

Bringing together the recorder and dizi, two wind instruments from disparate cultures, was an inspired one. Both date from antiquity, employ similar playing techniques and have related but distinct timbres.

The combined talents of Danish recorder virtuoso Michala Petri and Chinese dizi exponent Tang Jun Qiao was a meeting of great musical minds, but where was the audience? Such a concert should have been packed to the rafters, rather than witnessing a dismal turnout. Perhaps everyone was by the Bay catching fireworks, when arguably the more spectacular pyrotechnics were on stage.

Appropriately the concert conducted by Tsung Yeh began with Wang Qiang’s Young Ladies of Luoyang, with pleasing, willowy string textures lightly spiced with wind and percussion. The gentle lull was brought to a Haydnesque loud ending chord, jolting the unsuspecting to an abrupt awakening.

Petri appeared first with Vivaldi’s popular Recorder Concerto in C major (RV.443), also familiar in its guitar version. Her piccolo recorder produced an exquisitely bright little sound, engaging decorative baroque figurations with graceful aplomb. What surprised was the chamber-sized orchestra, with basso continuo provided by cello and yangqins, sounding so comfortable in this idiom.

Thomas Koppel’s Moonchild’s Dreams brought listeners back to the 20th century, but its sentimental main melody is decidedly Romantic. It is a meditation with colourful variations, beautifully shaped by Petri on five separate instruments.

The most demanding work of the concert was Guo Wen Jing’s In Sorrow Of Desolated Mountain, a three-movement concerto employing post-Debussyan sound textures and gratuitous dissonance. A wilderness of unfathomable starkness was portrayed with Tang’s (left) clutch of three dizi being veritable paintbrushes. Her feat of breath control was awesome, hardly taking a pause in the moto perpetuo central movement, and wild dance of its finale.

Both Petri and Tang were united in the specially commissioned work, Concertante by locally-based British composer Eric Watson (left). A concerto grosso brought up to date in an accessible contemporary idiom, it presented both baroque recorder and dizi as first among equals. For its three linked movements, both reeds were like two peas in a pod, bound together in close harmony, intricate counterpoint and furious competition.

Using a related wind instrument, the guanzi to provide the opening theme was a nice touch, as were passages towards the end when both were finally allowed breathing space for their own solos. It made for a brilliant close to a brilliant concert.

No comments: