Tan Su-Min & Tan Su-Hui
Esplanade Recital Studio
26 May 2016)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 28 May 2016 with the title "Intoxicating performance from musician twins".
Every once in a generation, there comes a pair of musical twin sisters to take the local music scene by storm. During the 1990s, it was duo pianists Low Shao Ying and Shao Suan, who were graduates of the Paris Conservatory. This decade belongs to the Tan twins, zhongruan player Clara Su-Min and guzheng exponent Sophy Su-Hui, who both completed their education at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and Shanghai Conservatory.
Their debut recital, part of Esplanade's Chinese Chamber Music Series, was a confident 70-minute showcase of their performing, composing and arrangement skills. The first three works were of classical origin, beginning with the sisters' arrangement of Mei Hua Yin (Impressions of the Plum Blossom), where they were joined by xiao (vertical flute) player Tan Qing Lun.
The xiao's plaintiveness and contrasting qualities of the strummed and plucked string instruments transported one back to a time of antiquity. The mood was initially subdued but worked itself to a stirring climax. A similar schema applied to Ruan Ji's The Drunkard (from the era of Three Kingdoms), where the duo took turns to carry the serenade's melodies and accompaniment to a tipsy conclusion.
Su-Hui's performance of the old Hakka tune Chu Shui Lian (Lotus On Water) revelled in its high registers where a wealth of detail was gloriously expressed. Not to be outdone, Su-Min's highly virtuosic performance of the toccata-like 1st movement of Liu Xing's Zhonghu Concerto No.2 (with Kseniia Vokhmianina on piano) was a revelation.
This Western-style concertante work had little in Chinese influences, resembling more a Spanish guitar concerto with repetitive minimalist rhythms and harmonies. That Su-Min was invited to perform its World Premiere at the 2014 Hong Kong Arts Festival said much about her standing in the Chinese music world.
In Wei Jun's Desert Trail, the guzheng was tuned to the exotic scales heard in Arabic music. With Chen Kangren's hand drum providing the beat, the sultriness and hazy incense of the
Middle East were relived in this
The final two works were jointly composed by the sisters, both of whom have a penchant for the popular and contemporary mainstream.
was quiet and serene, a
vivid night scene which gradually turns to nascent dawn as the music picks up
in pace. Govin Tan's tabla set
provided a steady beat and almost gave the work an Indian feel. Mystic Forest
Taped sounds with reverberating echoes and distant chants accompanied the titular Traveller, a rousing fusion work which imagines a caravan making its way through a swathe of foreign lands along the legendary old
Silk Road. Here, the
fully-subscribed house was witness to the three Tans in exuberant mood as the
concert closed on a intoxicating high.
There was time for an encore from the twins, and the lively post-concert discussion revealed that a CD recording will be on its way sometime later this year. Based on this evening's show, patience will be a virtue as one can hardly wait.