Monday, 29 August 2011

A CULTURAL ODYSSEY / Alan Choo & Miyuki Washimiya Recital / Review

Alan Choo, Violin with
Miyuki Washimiya, Piano
Esplanade Recital Studio
Saturday (27 August 2011)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 29 August 2011 with the title "Superb pairing of youth and maturity".

The unusual title of this recital has little to do with the programme but rather to a first time collaboration between a young Singaporean violinist and an experienced Japanese pianist, presented by the locally based Kris Foundation. This apparent disparity mattered little as the duo opened with a lucid account of Mozart’s Sonata in G major (K.301).

Even if it was designated as a sonata for piano with violin, this was a meeting of equals, Alan Choo’s limpid cantabile with Miyuki Washimaya’s precise and sensitive articulations. The initial congenial tone turned passionate for Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata (left), the major work in the concert, when both dug in for a gripping performance that lacked nothing in fire and fury.

Choo’s unaccompanied solo was arresting, and Washimiya’s reply a full bodied statement of intent, setting the tone for an invigorating journey. Play on colour and nuances characterised the central movement’s Theme and Variations, before the finale’s whirlwind tarantella – executed with brilliant panache – swept the board.

There were solos from both artists, beginning with Choo in Heinrich Biber’s Passacaglia in G minor (left), built upon just four notes (G-F-E flat-D) played over 65 times. In the personable young man’s preamble, he assured the audience that it would not be boring, and the result was a kaleidoscopic display of total technical assurance.

Washimiya contrasted compatriot Toru Takemitsu’s atonal Piano Distance (left), its seemingly random chords and blotches, with the heady rhythms and coruscating glissandi of Ravel’s La Valse. Her magisterial control of the latter’s insistent pulse, clashing harmonies and symphonic textures was simply breathtaking.

The duo returned for Ernest Bloch’s Baal Shem Suite (left), three movements celebrating scenes of Hassidic life and rituals. There is a lot to admire in Choo’s grasp of the idiom and enormous emotional range expressed on the 1850 Postiglione violin, from the sorrow of Nigun to unfettered rejoicing in Simchas Torah.

More familiar fare closed the concert, with the Saint-Saens warhorse Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso providing the fireworks. Again, Choo’s lovely tone smoothened the syncopated lilt of its slow opening before unleashing the works for a thrilling send-off. With an excess of talent to burn, this could very well be the debut recital of the year.

A Cultural Odyssey was presented by the Kris Foundation.

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