Tuesday, 8 September 2015

LAURA PEH & CATRIN FINCH / Harp Recitals / Review

LAURA PEH, Harp Recital
Play Den, The Arts House

CATRIN FINCH, Harp Recital
University Cultural Centre Theatre
Sunday (6 September 2015)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 8 September 2015

It was an uncanny happenstance that a promising young Singaporean harpist and one of the world's most renowned harpists held their recitals on the same day of the year. Thankfully, several hours separated the events and one was just able to attend the first in completion and then make it on time to enjoy the second.  

Laura Peh recently graduated from London's Royal College of Music, and her recital was to involve several other young Singaporean artists. Dancers Hoi Siu Yan and Khoo Hong Kei shared the stage in Marcel Tournier's Dance Of Russian Peasants, part of his Images Suite No.4. Their slender forms and graceful movements in Renee Daphne Leong's choreography mirrored that of Peh's gentle and cultivated playing.

Violinist Wilford Goh joined Peh in Saint-Saens' Fantaisie Op.124 and Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel (Mirror in the Mirror), the last a haunting minimalist number which was accompanied by a short film by Lee Min-Wei that was a quiet celebration of all things Singaporean in the nation's golden jubilee year. Scenes of daily life provided a familiar and loving backdrop to the sensitive music-making. For the balance of her programme, Peh also performed short character pieces by Tchaikovsky and Tan Dun.

If Peh is at the opening chapter of her musical career, Welsh harpist Catrin Finch has already written several volumes. Her recital was the climax of the HarpFest V organised by indefatigable local harp-entrepreneur Katryna Tan. Finch has enough virtuosity, personality and wit to sustain an entire concert on her very own.

The first half was a mini-tour of the European nations, beginning with English harp-composer Elias Parish Alvars' scintillating Introduction, Cadenza and Rondo. French elegance in Faure's Chetelaine In Her Tower was contrasted with the German austerity of Hindemith's Sonata. Prokofiev's wry little Prelude led to a spectacular transcription of Bedrich Smetana's symphonic poem Die Moldau, a showpiece which brought out Finch's mastery of orchestral textures on a single instrument.

Her second half was Welsh, tinged with a Latin accent. William Mathias' Santa Fe Suite was atmospheric in its first two movements, Landscape and Nocturne, before breaking out in the frenetic Sun Dance. John Thomas, royal harpist to Queen Victoria, was represented by a heartfelt folksong while Finch, herself once royal harpist to Prince Charles, lit up her original composition Aurora with sequences of shimmering glissandi.

Piazzolla's infectious Libertango was vociferously received by a trigger-happy audience which could not wait to applaud every variation of Felix Godefroid's Carnival Of Venice, which got increasingly showy as the work progressed. For her two encores, Finch wheeled in an amplified harp on which she performed another Welsh folksong and her own Clear Skies, with an ear-teasing resonance.

It would be safe to say that the audiences to both recitals, pardon the poor pun, left harp-ily ever after.

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