YOUNG VIRTUOSI 2023
Esplanade Recital Studio
Tuesday (21 March 2023)
Ever wondered how the likes of violinist Chloe Chua or pianist Toby Tan came about? Musical child prodigies are rare miracles of nature and nurture, but given the right environment, education, guidance and encouragement, many children can aspire to great heights. It is a matter of time that their talents are revealed, and there are many more prodigies than one suspects. Chloe and Toby, winners of international music competitions, are the only the tip of a giant iceberg.
It repays to discover how big this talent pool is, and this special concert for young soloists presented by Musicians Initiative (now in its second edition), was a big step in the right direction. Six string players played concerto movements and showpieces with the string ensemble from Musicians Initiative led by conductor Edward Tan, better-known as the concertmaster of re:Sound and first violinist of Concordia Quartet.
The 80-minute concert opened with Timothy Chua (12 years old) performing the first movement from Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D major. A picture of confidence, his healthy and robust tone served the music well, including a technically demanding cadenza by Steven Isserlis. Despite a short segment of desynchronisation between soloist and orchestra, he shrugged it off without batting an eyelid and continued to complete his task at hand. Composure is not something easily acquired or grasped, but he has it in shovels.
Despite 10-year-old Korean boy YooJun Curtis Lee being the tiniest of the six, he exhibited the heart of a lion. So natural he was in the first movement of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No.3 in G major (K.216) that it seemed as normal as breathing. Totally unfazed by the double stopping in the cadenza that might have unnerved older players, his reading was one of total control and confidence.
Alyssa Anne Low (11) was perhaps over-ambitious to have chosen Sarasate’s very tricky Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs), but she launched into it with steely determination. She produced a voluminous tone but had intonation issues in the most technically demanding parts. While the slow movement sang prettily, the romping finale came across as a little messy. With the passage of time and more practice, she will certainly grow into this showpiece.
The surname Qin is almost synonymous with the cello in Singapore, Australia and China, so it was not a total surprise to see Jayden Qin (11) appear in the first movement of Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C major. His was a very nuanced and thoughtful reading, displaying good tone and an understated kind of virtuosity. He is certainly a chip off the old block (and apologies for calling Li-Wei an old block!).
Yuto Lim, despite being just 11, already appears like a seasoned veteran. In Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, he started playing as if a member of the orchestra, and his solo that emerged from the throng was distinguished by clarity of articulation and tone. His was a no-holds-barred reading, unafraid to let rip in the fiery outer movements yet maintaining a reassuring warmth and glow at its core. He might just be the one to emulate the world-beating feats of Chloe Chua.
Jacob Cheng (14) was the most mature of the six talents, and his view of Ravel’s gypsy rhapsody Tzigane had the requisite virtuosity demanded from an adult performer. His opening unaccompanied solo was spell-binding and the ensuing ride being a thrilling show of swaggering pyrotechnics. Most alertly accompanied by the orchestra, as with the other works, this brought the concert to a stunning close.
All six young virtuosi returned to perform an encore: the first movement of Vivaldi’s popular Concerto in B minor for four violins. This was an absolute blast, simply because each player had already completed their individual projects and was now enjoying the company of the others. The audience was just as enchanted, erupting with a big communal cheer, the best encouragement the soloists could possibly get. It was the best way of saying,“We want to hear you play again!”