Monday, 28 May 2012

PASSAGE A Concerto for Cello and Orchestra by HO CHEE KONG

A new cello concerto by a Singaporean composer will receive its World Premiere at the Singapore Festival of Arts on 1 and 2 June 2012. Passage by Ho Chee Kong will be performed by cellist Qin Li-Wei and the Orchestra of the Music Makers conducted by Chan Tze Law. It will be part of the concert entitled Rite(s) of Spring at the festival, which also see the performances of Holst's Beni Mora (Oriental Suite) and Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring.  Here are some photos taken from a rehearsal of Passage at the School of the Arts on Sunday evening (17 May 2012).

Composer Ho Chee Kong peruses the score of Passage.

Passage was commissioned by the Singapore Festival of Arts as a sort of prequel to Stravinsky's ballet The Rite of Spring. In the concert itself, Passage will be performed just before the Rite, with a short interval between the two works. Ho Chee Kong has revealed that his concerto is in seven sections as follows:

1. The Sign and Vision (Cello opening solo): during a ritual, a sign appears and the wise man sees a vision
2. Awakening Spirits: the wise man seeks help to interpret the vision
3. Divining the Mist: the spirits point to the mist
4. The Earth Speaks: and he encounters the voice of the Earth
5. Shadows of Spring: which speaks of the coming of a dark Spring
6. Sighting the Chosen (Cello cadenza): the wise man sees the chosen one
7. Heralds of Fate: and realises the fatalism of his vision. 

There will also be a short surprise appended to the end of the work, but more will be revealed at the actual performance. 

Qin Li-Wei is the virtuoso cellist for whom the work was conceived.

Composer, soloist and conductor confer on points in the score.

Ho Chee Kong has this tongue-in-cheek precis on the work and how it links up with Stravinsky's ballet:

"Something like that, where this wise man divined that in order for world peace to happen, he should call for a couple of tribes to come together and play some games, and along the way form an elder council who then decide that there should be a celebration party for everyone, which they did, but unfortunately some young girl got overly intoxicated and danced herself to death, which was initially classified as no foul play but got mixed up in the report and turned up classified as sacrifice. 

Turns out old Igor got the tip from an informant who was the wise man, whom he could not disclose and hence only ended up writing the music for two sections of the Rite

Yup, that's how it happened."

Having heard the entire work from start to end, I can only conclude that Passage will become one of the great concertos in the Singaporean canon of compositions. Concentrated within 16 minutes, it is a very moving piece of music, distinguished by a strong power of the narrative and exotic instrumental colour. The cello part is extremely virtuosic; while standing out in the solo opening and cadenza, it also blends in well with the orchestra's textures. The orchestral part is equally challenging, but the young players of OMM more than stood up to the challenge. The World Premiere on 1 June is going to be a great hit. 

A final conference and it appears that everybody is satisfied with the outcome.

Ho Chee Kong, Qin Li-Wei and Chan Tze Law pose for a shot. 
Next stop, Esplanade!

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