Tuesday, 27 March 2012

DAUNTLESS SPIRIT 2012 / Singapore Youth Chinese Orchestra and Singapore Chinese Orchestra / Review

Singapore Chinese Orchestra & Youth Orchestra
Singapore Conference Hall
Saturday (24 March 2012)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 26 March 2012 with the title "Old hands, young talent united in Spirit".

If one thought that Chinese instrumental music appealed mostly to the older generation, this concert is proof to the contrary. There exists a vast pool of young talent here, a heartening phenomenon displayed by the prowess of the Singapore Youth Chinese Orchestra conducted by Singapore Chinese Orchestra Associate Conductor Quek Ling Kiong (below).

The ensemble showed that subtlety was a quality equal to virtuosity in the opening work, Law Wing Fai’s Tang Capriccio. Erhus in unison yielded a refined homogeneous sound in The Herd, where rapt pianissimos were shaded with sensitivity. This was followed by a gentle serenade of plucked strings (pipas and ruans) in River Snow, the stillness of wintry climes evocatively captured. Only in the finale, Drunken Monk Calligraphy, where the piccolo-like timbre of the bangdi (Chinese flute) with its delightful lurching about, did everyone let down their collective hair.

A wonderful solo erhu poignantly coloured Liu Xing’s Bian Ba, the composer’s romance-like tribute to a Tibetan erhu player of the same name. Sheer exuberance from the 9-member percussion then lit up Tang Jian Ping’s Dragon Leaps To The East, its steadfast and implacable beat matched only by the 8-member suona clique with its strident clarion call.

Individual virtuosity was also showcased in two concertante works. Accompanied by more senior colleagues of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra conducted by Yeh Tsung (left), young guzheng soloist Roy Yuen, a Geography major, exhibited both utmost clarity and disarming panache in Gu Guan Ren’s Mountain and Water. Then the sister erhu duo of Tay Zhi Wen and Tay Jun Wen became one in thought and deed for the perpetual motion in the Hunt movement from Liu Xi Jin’s Hymn of Wusuli.

Both professional and student orchestras were united in the final work, four movements from Zhao Ji Ping’s Qiao’s Grand Courtyard. Like an earlier concert bringing together the Singapore Symphony and Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Orchestras, this was another occasion where the experienced and the young became equal partners in harmony.

The music, written for a television drama, gave ample opportunity for teamwork, even if old hands such as Zhao Jian Hua’s erhu and Han Lei’s guanzi had pride of place in sumptuous solos. The future of Chinese music in Singapore is in good hands indeed.

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