VICTORIA MEMORIAL HALL 1930
Loke Hoe Kit Cello Recital
with Joanna Paul (Organ)
and Khor Shang Jin (Piano)
Victoria Concert Hall
1 July 2017)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 3 July 2017 with the title "Stellar rendition of the works of cello greats".
Cello recitals are rarities in the
musical scene, and rarer still is the unusual programme
presented by young cellist Loke Hoe Kit and friends. In Victoria Memorial Hall
1930, he references the year in which concerts were first held in this
historical venue, and his well-researched programme notes lists luminaries who
have performed here. Singapore
Among them were cello greats Gregor Piatigorsky, Emanuel Feuermann and Gaspar Cassado. His recital relived some of the works performed by them and as well adding several local premieres of his own.
premiere was Marcel Dupre's Sonata for Cello and
Organ in A minor, which could have presented balance problems for both
instruments. Thankfully, Loke's voluminous cello sound held its own against the
chords and dissonances of the hall's Klais organ performed by Joanna Paul. The
duo made the best of its acerbic idiom in its three movements while luxuriated
in its lyrical moments. Singapore
From there, it was mostly easier listening, beginning with Richard Strauss' early Cello Sonata (which Feuermann played in 1934), with pianist Khor Shang Jin in partnership. A wide range of emotions were on display, including restlessness and passion in its opening movement, followed by deeply-felt sorrow in the elegiac slow movement. Playfulness and a release of pent-up emotions concluded this work in a full-flush of unabashed Romanticism.
Loke, who performed the entire concert from memory, upped the ante in the
premiere of the Second Cello Concerto by Victor
Herbert, the Irish-American composer better known for his operettas including Babes
In Toyland. There was no let-up in this virtuosic showpiece, from
impetuousness and agitation to a brilliant conclusion which fully taxed both
cellist and pianist. Singapore
In between, Loke's song-like cello tone in the slow movement, filled with tenderness and longing, was a joy to behold. The practice of performing concertos with piano accompaniment (in the absence of an orchestra) was commonplace in recitals of the past, and Khor served the demanding role of surrogate orchestra with much alertness and sensitivity.
More soulfulness abounded in Ernest Bloch's Prayer, which was heard from Piatigorsky here in 1956. Singing like a cantor in a synagogue, Loke's cello held sway in its all-too-brief duration, before closing with the Toccata attributed to the Italian baroque composer Girolamo Frescobaldi in an “arrangement” by Cassado.
Its Romantic demeanour and the technique called for suggest far more Cassado than Frescobaldi. Nonetheless, both Loke and Paul on organ tore through its baroque pretensions without apology, closing the concert on a resonant high.
Cassado and Feuerman, who both performed this work in Victoria Memorial Hall in 1953/58 and 1934 respectively, would have found in fellow cellist Loke Hoe Kit a kindred spirit. The lovely encore, Bach's chorale prelude Ich Ruf' Zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ (I Call To You, Lord Jesus Christ), was merely the icing on a well-baked cake.