THE FOUR SEASONS
VCH Chamber Series
Victoria Concert Hall
19 October 2014)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 21 October 2014 with the title "Charming with four seasons".
Sunday afternoons have come alive again at Victoria Concert Hall, with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s chamber concert series moving back to the historic performing venue from the School of the Arts. There are concerts featuring big names coming up, but the orchestra’s own musicians, greeted by a sizeable audience, are more than capable of putting up a good show.
This afternoon’s concert offered music for chamber trios, opening with Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. Listeners would be more familiar with Leonid Desyatnikov’s arrangement for solo violin and chamber orchestra, usually coupled with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The piano trio version performed was more modest, but included all the main themes.
Departing from the sequence stated in the programme notes, the trio of violinist Chen Da Wei, cellist Yu Jing and pianist Yao Xiao Yun started with Spring and ended with Winter. The melodic lines were shared alternately by cello and violin, while the piano provided the steady beat which distinguished each movement as a tango, the sultry dance with all its sensual connotations.
Something is missing when Piazzolla’s own instrument the bandoneon (the Argentine accordion) is absent but the trio milked the music’s sentimentality for all its worth, with seemingly improvised cadenzas providing an element of showiness. In Winter (Invierno Porteno), a quote from Vivaldi’s Winter was included as the work closed in reassuring solace. The trio added Dvorak’s familiar Humoresque as an equally inviting encore.
The second half was longer, featuring Mozart’s Divertimento in E flat major (K.563), which despite its diminutive title, lasts some 40 minutes. This mature work was contemporaneous with his final trilogy of symphonies, but longer than all of them. Its multi-movement form was more akin to his Serenades, and inhabited with the same light-heartedness.
The trio of violinist Lillian Wang, violist Tan Wee-Hsin and cellist Chan Wei Shing brought out a very warm sonority, no doubt aided by the hall’s bright acoustics. Any fear that the work’s duration might weary the listener was allayed by the work’s melodic interest and wealth of ideas. The second movement Adagio provided a semblance of sobriety but the load was lightened by Wang’s disarmingly beautiful tone on her violin.
There were two lively and jocular Minuets separated by an Andante, which turned ut to be a charming set of variations on a rustic country dance, ending well before it outstayed its welcome. The finale had none of the frenetic busyness of most conclusions but was an elegant rondo whose theme sounded better with each return. This performance smiled from ear to ear, which pretty much summed up the true spirit of hausmusik, which was to provide more than an abundance of pleasure.