Tuesday, 14 August 2012

DANCE OF AN ANGEL / Katryna Tan 10th Anniversary Harp Recital / Review


Esplanade Recital Studio
Sunday (12 August 2012)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 14 August 2012 with the title "Night of heavenly harmonies".

It seemed only a short while ago when Seremban-born harpist Katryna Tan first burst onto the local musical scene. This concert marks the 10th anniversary of activities by the architecture student turned indefatigable musician, teacher, entrepreneur and founder of the Singapore Harp Festival, who was awarded the National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award in 2005.

Her concert was an 80-minute selection of her favourite music in original form and transcriptions, performed solo and with friends. The evening began with Tan’s own virtuosic arrangements of two Astor Piazzolla tangos, Milonga and Death of the Angel. All through its bittersweet melodies, which portrayed tenderness and yearning, she maintained a steady and unceasing pulse that resonated like the human heartbeat.

Alphonse Hasselmans’s Petite Valse provided a delightful Chopinesque interlude before launching to Franz Liszt’s Liebestr√§ume No.3, replete with its sweeping cadenzas which Tan negotiated with a disarming adroitness. A few misplaced chords towards the end did little to dampen the ardour.

More Latino music was next, with Agustin Lara’s rousing Granada, the subject of Carlos Salzedo’s Fantasy, contrasted with the melancholic Adagio from Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, where both solo and orchestral parts were combined by Tan. It was a credit to her artistry when one neither misses Placido Domingo’s voice or the cor anglais’s plaint in these works.


Tan’s friends from her all-girl I-Sis Trio then joined her in duos, first violinist Cindy Yan in Miroslav Skoryk’s Spanish Dance, and later cellist Natasha Liu in Ravel’s Piece in the Form of a Habanera and Debussy’s chanson Beau Soir. Tan’s altogether sensitive accompaniment allowed the melodic lines of her glamourous partners to sing, soar and shine. 

A more unusual collaboration came in the person of percussionist Ramu Thiruyanam, who improvised on cajon box drums (including one he was sitting on), chimes, maracas and a rattle in three of Bernard Andres’s Dances from The Island. In these, Tan played on her newly unveiled blue and chrome electrically amplified harp. Energised, the Mambo, Rumba and Samba movements provided foot-tapping moments which the audience positively revelled in.

All four musicians were united in the final work, Primavera Portena (Spring) from Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. The tango rhythm, now vigourous and hip-gyrating instead of just sultry, lent an exuberant end to the evening’s fare. Like Piazzolla who elevated the tango to lofty reaches, Katryna Tan has made the regal harp, the instrument of angels, more accessible to mere mortals.  

The I-Sis Trio, Ramu Thiruyanam and colleagues from the Singapore Chinese Orchestra, harpist and guzheng player Ma Xiao Lan and conductor Quek Ling Kiong.

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