Monday, 2 July 2018


The Blue Room @ The Arts House
Sunday (1 July 2018)

A musician's legacy may be measured by the performances, recordings or fine reviews one has garnered over the years. More often, it is one's legacy as a teacher and mentor that is most treasured. 

The Philippines-born cellist Mrs Herminia Ilano has been in Singapore for close to 40 years, having been a pioneer member of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra since its inception in 1979. In those years in the 1980s and 90s, she became one of Singapore's most respected cello teachers. A fair number of her students have themselves turned professional and are leading lights in Singapore's musical scene today.

Five of them came together to perform in a concert celebrating her 80th birthday this year. Five years ago, a similar concert was held at the same venue for her 75th birthday. By the looks of things, there should be another birthday bash in five years' time as well, as Mrs Ilano is still actively teaching, having an average of two students a day!  

The cellists starring in this concert were:
Chan Wei Shing
Singapore Symphony Orchestra 
& New Opera Singapore conductor
Leslie Tan, T'ang Quartet
& Yong Siew Toh Conservatory 
Song Woon Teng
Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Loke Hoe Kit, freelance cellist and concert organiser
Noella Yan, cellist based in Melbourne.

The concert opened with Leslie Tan, Noella Yan, Song Woon Teng and Chan Wei Shing performed Yuriy Leonovich's transcription of the Prelude from J.S.Bach's Suite No.5 in C minor. The piece already sounds rich on solo cello, so imagine how it would have sounded on four cellos! 

Mina listens intently to her former student's performances.

The duo of Loke Hoe Kit and Song Woon Teng were accompanied by pianist Selena Lai in Handel's Sonata in G minor (Op.2 No.8) as transcribed by H.Beyer. The work was in four movements - alternating slow and fast - in the sonata da chiesa form. 

Then it was the turn of Leslie Tan and Noella Yan in Jean-Baptiste Barriere's Sonata No.10, and they were joined by Selena in a Shostakovich Prelude, one of those short and very melodious pieces written without a hint of irony. 

Loke Hoe Kit and Chan Wei Shing returned to play four movements from Reinhold Gliere's 10 Duos Op.53. Despite being a 20th century Russian composer, Gliere's works are romantic in character and there was much virtuosity on show in the fast movements.

The final work was Wilhelm Fitzenhagen's Ave Maria Op.41, which is as gorgeous and operatic a work can get. Tugging on the heartstrings, that cannot be many dry eyes at its conclusion. By the way, Fitzenhagen was the cellist for whom Tchaikovsky wrote his Rococo Variations.  

Mrs Ilano was the most vociferous in applauding
her ex-students. She had certainly taught them well. 

At the end of the concert, Mrs Ilano was asked to say a few words. She expressed her gratitude and how fortunate she was to figure in the lives of this Singapore generation of cellists when they were young and growing up. We, are indeed fortunate to have had her help mould and shape our musical scene through the decades, and the results are nothing short of spectacular.

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