Thursday, 22 December 2011

LOST TO THE WORLD / The Sing Song Club / Review

The Sing Song Club
The Arts House
Tuesday (20 December 2011)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 22 December 2011 with the title "Sing Song Club in fine voice".

From the organisers of the First Singapore Lieder Festival in August and September came one final recital of art songs by Gustav Mahler and Franz Liszt, whose anniversaries are being observed this year. The Sing Song Club is Singapore’s version of Britain’s renowned The Songmaker’s Almanac, with pianist Shane Thio being the local Graham Johnson, that indefatigable instigator of the most ambitious singing projects.

Although the following for art song is small here, its practitioners are a young and determined lot who will become our top singers of tomorrow. Baritone Daniel Fong (above), a student at London’s Royal Academy, exuded a warm and expressive tone for the five Mahler songs on texts by Friedrich Rückert. Rich, sonorous and unafraid to project himself, his views on subjects like love, solitude and abandonment sung in clearly enounced German were palpable, even believable.

Ich bin der Welt abhanden (I Am Lost To The World), which lent the title to this concert, was treated with a world-wearied gravity that belied its apparent wistfulness. In Um Mitternacht (At Midnight), the shift from minor to major mode came like a shaft of life-affirming sunlight that washed away all gloom.

Tenor Brendan-Keefe Au (above) was less confident, and had a false start in Rheinlegendchen (Rhine Legend), but possessed a youthfulness that suited his set of Knaben Wunderhorn (Youth’s Magic Horn) songs well. These whimsical and often ironic songs of German folklore and country life found a sympathetic soul. Amid the militaristic undertones of Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen (Where the Beautiful Trumpets Blow), melancholy gave way to the expectancy of love.

For sheer tonal beauty, it was hard to beat soprano Rebecca Li (above), whose petite frame also packed a poignant punch. Such purity and innocence were distilled in two rarely heard Mahler songs and a further three by Liszt. Often overshadowed by his florid piano works, Liszt’s Freudvoll und leidvoll (Joyful and Sorrowful), Es muss ein wunderbares sein (It Must Be A Wonderful Thing) and S’il est un charmant gazon (If There is a Lovely Grassy Plot) basked in a radiant glow that can only be described as sublime.

This recital shows our young vocalists to be far more than enthusiastic bathroom singers. Further events by The Sing Song Club in March and May of next year are to be watched out for with keen anticipation.

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