Thursday, 5 December 2013

2013 ASIAN TOUR: SINGAPORE CONCERT / Bard College Conservatory & Soochow University School of Music / Review

Siow Lee Chin with faculty of 
Bard College Conservatory &
Soochow University School of Music
Esplanade Concert Hall
Tuesday (3 December 2013)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 5 December 2013 with the title "Winning partnership".

It was good to see violinist Siow Lee Chin back in concert after close to two years, having recovered from a career-threatening injury sustained in a hit-and-run auto accident last year. She not playing solo but partnering colleagues from New York’s Bard College Conservatory and the newly formed Soochow University School of Music in a short but lovely programme of chamber music.

Mozart’s popular Flute Quartet in D major (K.285) provided a most congenial opener, with Czech flautist Clara Novakova weaving clear and pristine lines, closely supported by Siow, violist Shawn Moore and cellist Wu Hekun. The vital essence of chamber music was in play throughout, with an ideal balance of sound and tautness of ensemble.

Its Adagio was a charming aria-like serenade, with flute floating above gently plucked pizzicato strings. But before one could get too comfortable, it abruptly broke off into the lively Rondo finale with all four musicians articulating its joyous strains in one accord.

Siow spoke briefly about her home-coming and learning new repertoire, which included arrangements by Levon Atovmyan’s of Shostakovich’s Five Pieces for two violins and piano. Here was the Soviet composer at his least forbidding, writing popular and banal melodies, mostly for films and ballets, without resorting to his trademark cynicism.

She was partnered by Moore, now playing second violin, and pianist Elise Yun. Although undemanding on the ears, the little pieces which include a Prelude, Gavotte, Elegy, Waltz and Polka required warmth, delicacy and no little good humour.  These were in bounteous supply, but need the audience applaud after every two minutes?      

Enthusiasm and ignorance were equally and graciously accepted by the performers, whose role was to proselytise on behalf of music and the conservatories. This continued into the concert’s major work, where cellist Wu returned to join Siow and Yun in Mendelssohn’s First Piano Trio in D minor (Op.49).   

One of the great trios of the early Romantic period, its share of overflowing melody and fastidiously crafted note-spinning was gratefully reciprocated by the threesome. Yun had the most running notes, which she accurately and crisply rolled out on the keyboard. The singing qualities of Siow’s violin playing, always a pleasure, were complemented by Wu’s big-toned and lusty bowing.

The song without words that is the slow movement was followed by the quicksilver Scherzo, which flitted and flew with feathery lightness. The finale with its big striding tunes completed the picture and closed the concert with passionate aplomb. With teachers like these on board, Suzhou might soon be known for its classical music, alongside its gardens and industrial parks.  

Concert photograph courtesy of Dr Siow Yew Nam.

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