Wednesday, 15 November 2017

CD Review (The Straits Times, November 2017)

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

The British composer-pedagogue Eric Watson is the present Composer-in-Residence of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra. This unusual accolade was a culmination of sorts after winning First Prize in the First Singapore International Competition for Chinese Orchestral Composition (2006) with his tone poem Tapestry - Time Dances, a sympathetic fusion of Western compositional technique and Chinese instrumentation with Nanyang characteristics.

His sound world is eclectic with myriad Asian influences and a popular slant without sounding derivative, which could not have been conceived by any Westerner not living in the Far East. Six works are represented in this 65-minute capsule profile, opening with Mahjong Kakis, a jazzy and blues-inflected orchestral scherzo. Tapestry – Time Dances and An Independent Note share a similar aesthete, the latter a collection of Lee Kuan Yew quotes recited with stentorian vigour by veteran actor Lim Kay Tong.

Dialogue for tabla and Chinese orchestra is a concerto with improvisation, featuring young tabla virtuoso Govin Tan doing the honours. The Ceilidh and Songs Of The North are concerto for orchestra and concerto grosso respectively, using songs from the British isles to stunning effect. The latter sees Celtic fiddle, English concertina, dizi and pipa sharing the stage as solo instruments. Such a heady combination could only come from Singapore, and performed with an irrepressible zest from the Singapore Chinese Orchestra.  

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