Tuesday, 13 August 2013

PORTRAITS OF SINGAPORE / AudioImage Wind Ensemble / Review

AudioImage Wind Ensemble
Esplanade Concert Hall
Sunday (11 August 2013)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 13 August 2013 with the title "Xinyao tune wins over audience".

Sunday afternoon concerts at Esplanade Concert Hall are synonymous with light music and audience outreach events. In conjunction with National Day, the AudioImage Wind Ensemble conducted by Clarence Tan presented a programme of works wholly by Singaporean composers. However not all of it was light or easy going.

The concert began innocently enough with the familiar Malay tune Di Tanjung Katong wittily dressed up in joget rhythm by Bernard Lee. The three loud emphatic chords at its end seemed to recall a bygone era, one occupied by the late and venerated Leong Yoon Pin (below), whose music followed. 

Daybreak and Sunrise, his only work for wind band, was evocative with its slow introduction leading into a brass chorale and march. Chinese motifs with hints at Elgar coloured its climax before closing on a surprisingly quiet note. Then the music took on more austere tones.

There should be some rightful place for Lee’s Wind Field II, but its atonal pages and episodic character, with the instrumentalists (and listeners) seemingly grasping for straws, sounded out of place here. The audience was becoming restless, with teenagers chatting and one child crying, whether out of boredom or for respite, it is anyone’s guess. It also did not help with ushers scampering up and down the aisles in search of errant photographers, real or imagined.

Chen Zhangyi’s impressionistic Toward Dawn was atmospheric in the use of tone colour, and almost echoing Leong’s earlier effort, built to a fulsome high before ending quietly. This is a work that repays further listening. Cultural Medallion recipient Kelly Tang’s (right) Sarabande made more concession for listeners, its graceful lilt and warm Andrew Lloyd Webber-like harmonies provided a soothing aural salve.

Jeremiah Li’s Two Portraits were studies in contrasts. Solo cello, marimba and percussion provided an unusual wind-free timbre for Nuances, which played on a triplet leitmotif. The infernal dance of Clockwork’D was about jabbing ostinatos and Bernsteinesque jazzy turns.

The 75-minute long concert concluded with a return of the familiar. Unfortunately the arrangement of Count On Me, Singapore by Chen was stodgy, an over-reliance on long-held notes and resonances impeding its natural flow. The loudest cheers were reserved for Liang Wern Fook’s (left) xinyao classic Xi Shui Chang Liu, in a light-hearted clap-along with Dixieland echoes transcribed by Wong Kah Chun.

It certainly does not hurt to write a good and memorable tune, and this fact was not lost on its audience.    

AudioImage Wind Emsemble conductor Clarence Tan (right)
with bilingual MC and composer Liong Kit Yeng. 

No comments: