Wednesday, 25 October 2017

DVD Review (The Straits Times, October 2017)

Singapore Chinese Orchestra / YEH TSUNG
SCO DVD 2017 / ***1/2 

This is a live recording of a July 2013 concert held at Esplanade Concert Hall, part of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra and its Music Director Yeh Tsung's vision of crossing over to reach a wider audience by performing non-Chinese music on traditional Chinese instruments. The choice of George Gershwin, early American jazz and Afro-American spirituals was a interesting one that worked surprisingly well, contributing to a highly enjoyable event.

The casting of African-American soloists was also inspired. Veteran pianist Leon Bates gave a brash, no-holds-barred account of Rhapsody in Blue and Fascinatin' Rhythm (solo, as an encore) including his own showy extemporisations. He also shined in I Got Rhythm Variations, complete with its curious Chinoiserie variation. 

Stealing the show was soprano Kimberly Eileen Jones in a medley of American spirituals, and she was joined by tenor Lawrence Mitchell-Matthews and choir in a suite of vocal highlights from Porgy and Bess which rocked the house.

It was thus unfortunate that the visual recording was not up to high definition standards, exacerbated by the constant flitting from one viewpoint to another without much thought or conception. Here the video producers have much to learn from top European and American houses. What could have been a concert spectacular was lost, and this should have been released as a purely audio CD recording instead. 

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