A TOUCH OF GOLD
More Than Music
Esplanade Recital Studio
Sunday (12 June 2016)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 14 June 2016 with the title "Hat-trick for classical trio".
More Than Music is the name adopted by the local duo of violinist Loh Jun Hong and pianist Abigail Sin, whose intention is to introduce bite-sized works to audiences new to classical music. In their view, classics need not be over-serious or stuffy, and can be enjoyed for what they are rather than what they mean.
In their concerts, they speak briefly about each work and to expand the audience's listening repertoire, also introduce friends who play other instruments along the way. Their guest this evening was trumpeter Lau Wen Rong, who is presently studying in New York's Juilliard School.
The concert's title turned out to be a misnomer as Lau's trumpets were not crafted from gold but silver, a joke that brought out chortles from the audience. Opening with Alexander Goedicke's Concert Etude, Lau blazed his way like a thoroughbred over a steeplechase, with a virile show of agility and athleticism.
He coaxed a gilded tone in the slow opening of Carl Höhne's Slavonic Fantasy, with lyrical beauty befitting a bel canto aria. Like many showpieces, the tempo soon gathered pace and momentum, obliging the trumpet a full gamut of technical stunts before speeding out headlong for a spectacular photo-finish.
Not to be outdone, Loh performed Italian baroque composer Tomaso Vitali's famous Chaconne in the romanticised arrangement by Leopold Charlier. Loh is a born music story-teller, beginning with an elegiac mood before working the series of short variations through a wide range of emotions to a feverish climax.
A similar arch-like edifice was erected for Ernest Chausson's rhapsodic Poeme, where dark clouds and subterranean rumblings soon gave way to the glorious sunshine of its main narrative, before gently ebbing away. Loh brought out a rich sonorous tone befitting its spiritual peaks and troughs in a performance that will not be easily forgotten.
All through the evening, pianist Sin was the omnipresent and ever-alert accompanist. Her four solos were no less gripping. In two late Brahms pieces from Op.119, the ambiguous harmonic language and languorous mien of Intermezzo No.1 were well contrasted with the restless agitation and aching lyricism of Intermezzo No.2.
Two impressionist works completed the picture. Charles Griffes' Clouds with its ever-shifting harmonies and half lights was an exhibition of exemplary pedalling from Sin, and her nimble fingers did the honours for Debussy's splashy L'Isle Joyeuse, a voyage of Bacchanalian revelry.
All three artists returned for the scherzo-like second movement of Eric Ewazen's Trio for trumpet, violin and piano. The threesome basked in its parade of energetic, angular and rhythmic jibes, filled with jazzy syncopations which they took in their stride.
All too soon the concert had come to an end, but there were two encores to sweeten the deal. Fritz Kreisler's leisurely Syncopation brought a most gemütlich (relaxed) of responses from Loh, and a gospel hall-like arrangement of Amazing Grace from Lau was an evocation of faith, pure and true.