Monday 12 July 2010

MAHLER 2: RESURRECTION by The Orchestra of the Music Makers / Review

Singapore & Queensland Festival Choruses
Orchestra of the Music Makers
Chan Tze Law, Conductor
Esplanade Concert Hall
Saturday (10 July 2010)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 12 July 2010.

The Youth Olympic Games may be a month away, but the euphoric flush of youth has arrived, vociferously delivered by 350 young musicians and singers at the Esplanade. Never has there been a greater display of musical audacity, shored up by stoutest of hearts and truest of intentions.

Putting things into perspective, it took the Singapore Symphony Orchestra 15 years before giving the Singapore premiere of Gustav Mahler’s monumental Second Symphony in 1994. Two years was all that was needed for the Orchestra of Music Makers (OMM) and its guiding light Chan Tze Law to pull off that same Olympian feat, and with some to spare.

Max Bruch’s First Violin Concerto opened the concert, with young Singaporean See Ian Ike, soon headed for Philadelphia’s famed Curtis Institute, as soloist. Innate confidence, warmth and purity of tone, with unfailing musicality distinguished his playing, running the full gamut of this popular showpiece. A natural and unforced virtuosity, as opposed to making a meal of vacuous gestures, was why this young man stood out. His rock-steady showing will forever put into the shade the recent travesty in the same work by “superstar” Sarah Chang, ice maiden of heartless pyrotechnics.

Fireworks lit up Marina Bay during the intermission, but sparks of a different kind soon ignited in Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. When stirring tremolos and low strings forcefully opened accounts, it was apparent this was to be a reading of no half-measures. Mahler once proclaimed that “the symphony must embrace everything”, and so OMM plumbed the depths and scaled the peaks.

While the funereal first movement could have benefited from a tauter rein, the force of intent was palpable. The tragedy was for real. Massive climaxes rocked the foundations while excellent solos from flautist Cheryl Lim and concertmaster Edward Tan set the tone for instrumental finery to come.
The leisurely Ländler lilt of the slow movement unfolded with gentle insouciance, contrasted with a manic streak in the Scherzo, adapted from one of Mahler’s more surreal songs. The brief fourth movement showcased mezzo-soprano Rebecca Chellapah’s reassuring tones in Urlicht (Primal Light), a nascent calm before the cataclysmic finale.

The latter provided the tour de force of the evening, a hell-for-leather ride that skirted the abyss before the final choral apotheosis. Brass, on and off the stage, worked overtime and brilliantly. The 220-strong chorus’ collective whisper was rapt and mysterious, blending beautifully with soprano Jeong Ae Ree’s ethereal melismata. When they took to their feet for the valedictory proclamation of “Auferstehen” (Resurrection), it was to spine-tingling effect.

Tonight they have conquered the world. Goodness only knows what our sonic youth will accomplish in ten years’ time.

Maestro Chan Tze Law faces the critics (from L):
Marc Rochester (UK), Robert Markow (Canada),
Satoru Takaku (Japan) & PianoManiac.