Monday 5 August 2013

MODERN VOICES - CLASS OF 1978 / Ding Yi Music Company / Review

Ding Yi Music Company
Esplanade Recital Studio
Saturday (3 August 2013)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 5 August 2013 with the title "Invigorating mix in new music".

The year 1978 was an important one for Chinese music. With Chairman Mao Zedong dead and the Cultural Revolution ended, the Central Conservatory in Beijing reopened its doors to a cohort of students whose lives had been disrupted by years of chaos, mayhem and forced labour. They would later become the voice of Musical China in the West in the 21st century, their legacies celebrated in this two-hour-long concert by the Ding Yi Music Company directed by Lim Yau.   

The evening began with Zhou Long’s Mount A Long Wind (2004), scored for erhu, pipa, dizi, guzheng and percussion. Impressionist in colour, the work inspired by Li Bai’s Xing Lu Nan (The Hard Road) was evocative of wind, water and nature’s elements. Poetic and meditative in part, it also drew upon a raw primal energy that gave the concert a stirring opening.

Tan Dun’s Ghost Opera (1994) is one of his best known scores, almost a microcosm of his entire well-exposed output. The parts played by a western string quartet (violinists Siew Yi Li and Lim Hui, violist Mervyn Wong and cellist Lin Juan) and pipa soloist Chua Yew Kok, all of whom multi-tasked as percussionists and vocalists, were both visual and musical. The hall was cloaked in darkness, with spotlights on the soloists and glass bowls of water.

Music from a Bach Prelude merged with the Chinese folksong Xiao Bai Cai (Little Cabbage), shamanistic yelps and Shakespearean quotes, traditions representing the “past”. The sounds of water (and the effects of gongs being immersed), metal (percussion), stone (struck close to resonating open mouths) and paper (a long roll being flapped in space) were the symbols of “eternity”, played by performers of “now”.

This 40-minute theatrical experience played out as an enthralling dialogue between “ghosts” of the past and future, confronting the present. Its symbolism was not lost on the full-house audience, which greeted the convincing performance with a most stirring of ovations.

Chen Yi’s Huqin Suite (1997) was brought on tour by the Singapore Symphony to Germany in 2000. This was however the Singapore premiere of the version scored for Chinese instruments (2007), with Chin Yen Choong playing on three bowed instruments. The erhu with its mellifluous singing was contrasted with the lower and more guttural zhonghu recitations, and capped by the diminutive squeak of the gaohu in the furious final dance. 

The concert closed with Extase III (2010) by Chen Qigang, well known for having been the Music Director of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. A virtuosic score much in the tradition of Messiaen and Boulez, Veda Lin stood out for her ceaseless acrobatics and breathtaking long phrases (circular breathing being the secret) on the oboe. This fantasy on the folksong San Shi Li Pu also pitted her with Wong Deli’s suona, as the music drew to a feverish and raucous climax. Both soloist and ensemble emerged first among equals, in a concert of new music that was both invigorating and inspiring. 

Concert photographs courtesy of Ding Yi Music Company.

No comments: