Tuesday, 26 February 2013

MARI FUJUWARA Cello Recital / Review

Japanese Association of Singapore Auditorium
Sunday (24 February 2013)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 26 February 2013 with the title "Sweet finish for Japanese cello recital".

The Japanese community in Singapore, much like their compatriots back home, have a strong tradition of supporting Western classical music. The small auditorium of the Japanese Association of Singapore at Adam Road was filled close to capacity for the recital by Mari Fujiwara, one of Japan’s most respected cellists.

A top prize-winner of the Tchaikovsky International Cello Competition, and student of Hideo Saito, Mstislav Rostropovich and Pierre Fournier, Fujiwara’s playing reflected her illustrious pedigree. The recital began with not one but two performances of the Prelude from J.S.Bach’s Cello Suite No.1 in G major.

The difference was that the second time was accomplished without the cello resting on its end-pin or spike. Held nearer the body and played in a slightly crouched position, she was demonstrating a style closer to the baroque tradition. With this, she produced a more intimate sound from her prized Guarnerius del Gesu, which sung with a distinctly mellow timbre.

Presumably because this was a more difficult stance to maintain, she performed Bach’s Suite No.2 in D minor in the usual posture. No matter, it was equally beautiful in that she let the music in its six movements speak for itself. Hers was an unforced virtuosity, never mannered nor striving for effect, with the seeming effortlessness of breathing. Minimal vibrato was employed, which was in the spirit of the times.

The element of dance was keenly felt, the tempo quickening for the Allemande and Courante, while broadening for the slow long-breathed Sarabande. The Minuets could have been more playful, but the rhythmic pulse of the final Gigue closed the sublime work on a spiritual high.

The disproportionately shorter second half comprised four considerably lighter works. In Saint-Saëns’s The Swan and Fauré’s Sicilienne (from Pelleas et Melisande), sensitively accompanied by Malaysian pianist Loo Bang Hean, a gorgeous vibrato came to the fore.

Her view of Kreisler’s Liebesleid, taken rather briskly, with several more shades of gaiety than sorrow, and the concert proper closed with Simon Nicholls’s Cakewalk, polished off in an insouciant ragtime rhythm. The duo offered two encores, a Japanese song transcription and Elgar’s evergreen Salut d’amour

Every member of the enthusiastic audience was given an autographed programme and a stalk of orchids. That was a nice touch for sure, but the friendly, well planned programme and lovingly played music was reward enough.   

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