Monday, 10 September 2012

2ND SINGAPORE LIEDER FESTIVAL / Review


2ND SINGAPORE LIEDER FESTIVAL
The Sing Song Club
The Living Room @ The Arts House
Friday (7 September 2012)

A slightly edited version of this review was published in The Straits Times on 10 September 2012 with the title "Splendid singers for festival".

Those who have been closely following these pages would have noticed a resurgence of vocal events in recent years, in the form of operas and performance of art songs. The latter, in particular, has been in large part through the efforts of the Sing Song Club, a collective of singers and pianist Shane Thio, responsible for founding the annual Singapore Lieder Festival and Alphabet Series of recitals.

This year’s Lieder Festival ran for just two evenings, a reduction from last year’s ambitious six nights of Schubert and Schumann song cycles. The German art song was again the focus, now broadened to include Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Wolf, Strauss and the Second Viennese School. Disappointingly not more than 30 people turned up to witness the first evening’s hour-long concert by four very different but splendid singers.


A pleasing symmetry was offered by the sets of Hugo Wolf songs that opened and closed the recital, a case of thoughtful programming. Soprano Rebecca Li ran the full gamut of emotions - of love gained and loved Рin Die Spr̦de and Die Bekehrte, a pair of contrasting pastoral reflections. A more poignant rendition of Das Verlassene Magdlein (The Forsaken Maiden) would have been hard to find from this petite but deceptively powerful presence, who sang completely from memory.


The Verona-based bass-baritone Martin Ng lent an animated and highly dramatic edge to five Brahms songs, his big burnished voice filled the breadth and depth of the human experience within. In the hymn-like Erinnerung (Reminiscences), there was reassuring warmth which turned dark and smouldering for O wusst Ich doch den weg zuruck (O That I Knew The Way Back).    


There was some familiarity to the four Richard Strauss songs of Op.27, a wedding gift to his wife, sung by veteran baritone William Lim. His booming voice was one tempered with fine control; sombre in Ruhe, Mein Seele (Rest, My Soul), passionate in Cacilie, equally rapturous in Heimliche Aufforderung (Secret Invitation) and finally sensitive in Morgen! (Tomorrow). The exquisite piano parts found an equal in master collaborator Shane Thio.  


Malaysian tenor Peter Ong closed accounts with Wolf’s two Pelegrina lieder and the prayer-like Gebet, impressing with his enormous range and depth of feeling. The final number Abschied (Farewell) was no Mahlerian tear-jerker between departing lovers but a final riposte by adversaries, with an uproarious send-up to the Viennese waltz. Both singer and pianist hammed it up for an upbeat and spirited close.

Next year’s Lieder Festival goes French, with the complete chansons of Francis Poulenc. A curious and receptive audience is urgently invited!


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