Wednesday, 21 September 2011

LA NOCHE / Roberto Alvarez and Katryna Tan / Review

Roberto Alvarez, Flute
Katryna Tan, Harp
Esplanade Recital Studio
Monday (19 September 2011)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 21 September 2011 with the title "Flute and harp rule the night".

La Noche (The Night) was the culmination of a year-long project to commission eight new works for flute and harp by composers in Asturias in Northern Spain and Singapore. Given the versatility of the medium, which like the violin and piano combines melody, harmony and rhythm to memorable effect, the possibilities seemed endless.

The 90-minute long concert was a feat of concentration and instrumental virtuosity artistry by the Asturian flautist Roberto Alvarez and Seremban-born harpist Katryna Tan, both who have made their homes here. How they managed to master the wide-ranging idioms, surmount the complexities and keep the audience spellbound was testament to their consummate artistry.

Take for example Maria Dolores Malumbres’s Pieza (Piece) and Miguel Prida’s Motionless Vault, which were polar opposites in style. The former was a study in strict atonalism while the latter, a most melodic spiel in the Romantic vein. Both were made to sound equally persuasive, and equally valid.

Nocturnal fantasies were the unifying theme of the pieces, beginning with Ignacio Rodriguez Guerra’s Gigante Blanca (White Gigantic Star) which contrasted repose with restlessness. Over Tan’s repeated patterns and arpeggios sang Alvarez’s sinuous solos, and the resonances were startling as well as beautiful. Similarly inspired by celestial bodies were Chen Jangyi’s Five Constellations, short essays that evoked fairy tale scenes and fantastical imagery.

There was a programme to Robert Casteels’s Nachtlied (Night Song), which called upon Alvarez to perform on three instruments including the piccolo and alto flute. The wide dynamic range expressed about a child’s fear of darkness probably hinted at the psychological and subconscious.

Composer & Performers (from L): Robert Casteels, Katryna Tan, Ho Chee Kong, Roberto Alvarez and Fernando Ag├╝eria.

Fernando Agueria’s Moonlight was based on the Singapore skyline (as viewed in photographs), but the ceaseless rhythmic pulse and general restive mood had more to do with its active nightlife. Ho Chee Kong’s Last Dragonfly Dance was coloured with quasi-Oriental modes, a serene landscape of Peirce Reservoir at dusk where the placid insect’s flight is set against gradually receding light.

Closing the evening’s fare was Jorge Muniz’s La Nueche de San Xuan (St John’s Night). Its three movements portrayed the playful mythological spirits associated with the festival, memorably characterised by blowing sound effects on the flute and percussive raps on the wood of the harp. For the year’s most adventurous programming conceived in a concert, look no further.

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