Tuesday, 20 March 2012

SSO Chamber Concert: Mixed Doubles / Review

Singapore Symphony Orchestra Chamber Series
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concert Hall
Sunday (18 March 2012)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 20 March 2012 with the title "Magic-mixed music".

Not even the most torrential of rainstorms could dim the determination of a couple of hundred music-lovers who braved the elements to venture westward for this Sunday afternoon chamber concert by members of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. They were rewarded with an hour of music-making which had a pleasing symmetry about it.

Two string serenades by English composers sandwiched three baroque concertos which featured two soloists each, hence the sports-referenced title of the concert. Elgar’s Serenade in E minor, played by just eleven string players, filled the hall with a warm and sumptuous sonority that belied the ill-tempered weather. Not only was sound evenly homogeneous, there was a tenderness in the slow movement that could lift the most jaded of souls.

Two double concertos by Vivaldi provided a more athletic aspect to the proceedings. Cellists Ng Pei-Sian and Guo Hao (above) played ardent protagonists and antagonists in the tempestuous Concerto in G minor, a passionate outburst that looked forward to the Sturm und Drang (storm and stress) of the classical era to come. Their intimate conversation in the slow movement, joined by a third cellist Chan Wei Shing in the basso continuo, was more than sublime.

Flautists Roberto Alvarez and Evgueni Brokmiller (below) were the virtuosos in the Flute Concerto in C major, where the weaving interplay between each part seemed as inseparable as Siamese twins pre-surgery. Between the Vivaldis were equally chummy violists Tan Wee Hsin and Gu Bing Jie in Telemann’s Concerto in C major, where extreme brevity in its four movements seemed almost a shame.

The concert concluded with the Serenade by John Rutter, a suite of English folksong arrangements from a composer far better known for his choral music. Continuing where Elgar left off, there were some slightly adventurous harmonies at play, but nothing strayed from the hearty jauntiness of the home countries. Violinist Zhang Zhen Shan’s solo in the third movement O, Waly Waly (also known as The River Is Wide) was a thing of beauty but pity for the iffy intonation towards the end.
By the end of the joyous jig of Dashing Away With The Smoothing Iron that sent the audience and players home on a high, the rain had abated and out came the glorious sunshine It was as if the weather had been magically dictated by the music. If only all concerts were like this.

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