Monday 29 April 2013

LA BELLE ÉPOQUE / LEE CHIN SIN Baritone Recital with VICTOR KHOR, Piano / Review

LEE CHIN SIN, Baritone
with VICTOR KHOR, Piano
Yamaha Recital Hall, Marina Square
Saturday (27 April 2013)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 29 April 2013 with the title "Cordon bleu chef who sings with great feeling".

It is no secret that most of Singapore’s talented young singers hold daytime jobs unrelated to music. Tenor Melvin Tan is a wine merchant, sopranos Teng Xiang Ting and Lim Yan Ting are lawyer and life scientist respectively. So it is little surprise to learn that baritone Lee Chin Sin is a cordon bleu chef who co-owns a bistro.

Lee is not one of those booming-voiced operatic baritones who spout Don Giovanni or Figaro at will, but a more intimate sort comfortable with the parlando aspect of singing, one closer to the speaking voice. As such, he was well-suited for his selection of songs from the French Belle Epoque, a seemingly carefree era of bourgeois musical charm with an innocence that was shattered by the mayhem of the First World War.

He sang four groups of paired songs, beginning with Emile Pessard’s Absence and Berceuse, which revealed a casual insouciance that was easy on the ear.  His dusky tone gave Reynaldo Hahn’s Offrande and A Chloris, more commonly heard sung by a higher voice, a slightly darker hue, but still communicated its love and longing ardently.

Benjamin Godard is best remembered for his popular Berceuse from Jocelyn. His songs Les Larmes (The Tears) and Je ne veux pas d’autres choses (I Do Not Want Other Things) were both interpretively and physically challenging, and Lee was made to strain a little.

Francesco Paolo Tosti was no Frenchman, but his ‘A Vucchella (A Sweet Mouth) and Non t’amo piu (I Don’t Love You Anymore), both Italian songs, were coloured by the same sensibilities. There was a nice waltz-like lilt in the former, and how Lee tantalisingly hung on to the final note of the latter as it rose into the air, as if he was sorry to end.

In between groups of songs, Lee’s ever-perceptive accompanist Victor Khor had piano solos of his own, which dovetailed into the programme seamlessly. These included three of six Gnossiennes by Erik Satie, Debussy’s Ballade and Claire de lune and Poulenc’s Improvisation No.15, a homage to legendary French chanteuse Edith Piaf. Roger Branga’s solo transcription of Ravel’s Bolero closed the programme on a rowdy high.

And there were encores too. Lee’s was Edvard Grieg’s Ich Liebe Dich (I Love You), sung in German rather than the original Norwegian, while Khor had the final notes with Ravel’s Pavane for the Dead Infanta. This well-attended event suggests that more recitals of this kind can become a norm at this venue in time to come.        

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