The Philharmonic Winds
Esplanade Concert Hall
24 October 2015)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 26 October 2015 with the title "Remembering legacy of LKY".
Terrence Wong Fei Yang's Foundation began with a timpani roll and brass chorale, from which a passacaglia unfolded with a steady march-like rhythm. This is an antique compositional form with short variations built over a foundation of repeated rhythmic measures. With flourishes from woodwinds and brass, the work gained momentum and speed before closing abruptly.
While the opener pondered about the fate of civilisations, the next two works, selected from an open call for compositions, delved on the wonders of nature. Gregory Gu Wei's Meditation Under The Midnight Sun, composed following a trip to the Norwegian Arctic, had a pastoral feel with prominent piccolo, clarinet and oboe solos. There was a progression to a warmth of real splendour and a serene ending.
Oh Jin Yong's A Glance Upon The Silver River was a contemplation of the celestial. The contrabassoon's drone, tinkling percussion and piano created an aural haze for this piece of dynamic extremes and abrupt shifts. There was a glorious melody for the solo euphonium, leading to an outbreak of sound before dissipating to the murky and mysterious void as it had began with.
As promising as the three young composers were, it was the veterans who dominated the show. Belgium-born Robert Casteels's symphonic poem
was the most abstract
work, but had the advantage of sound engineering by Dirk Stromberg and a
projected film of natural images manned by Andrew Thomas. Hanging Gardens
Its Wagnerian scope was a breathtaking one, one massive canvas of sound which referenced the loss of the fabled Babylonian ancient wonder with the world today which risks being destroyed by mankind's greed and indifference to nature. Its gravitation to the key of G major provided the work's pivot, which suggests that there is hope for humanity after all.
Zechariah Goh Toh Chai's three-movement L.K.Y.-Legacy was probably the Lee Kuan Yew symphony everybody was waiting for. Thankfully, it was not an ultra-nationalistic paean but a sympathetic view tempered by the loss of the composer's own father in January. The first two movements were prefaced by quotes from the late leader.
The first, Herald, dealt with
's separation from Singapore , a movement of
dissonance and chromaticism reflecting Lee's anguish on Malaysia 9
with a trumpet solo resounding from the hall's Circle. The second, Romanza, was lighter and a tender
tribute to the pre-deceased Mrs Lee, his pillar of strength for many decades.
Its key of G minor however projected a pervading sense of loss.
The finale, Monumentum, quoted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the State Funeral and the epitaph of Sir Christopher Wren in St Paul's Cathedral, Si monumentum requiris, circumspice (If you seek his monument, look around you). The melody, resembling that of Faure's Pavane, was sung by members of the orchestra and the work closed with a conspicuous lack of pomp or bombast. That would have been exactly how Mr Lee would have liked it.