BAROQUE OPERATIC DELIGHTS
Singapore Lyric Opera
Victoria Concert Hall
Friday (15 January 2021)
A GRAND TOUR FOR WINDS
Victoria Concert Hall
Saturday (16 January 2021)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 20 January 2021 with the title "Young performers shine in two classical concerts".
As the Covid circuit breaker is gradually lifted, local arts groups have been gearing up for live performances. One might not have guessed that last weekend, Victoria Concert Hall was filled with the sound of music for two consecutive evenings for the first time in months.
What a pleasure it was to witness live vocal music again, with the Singapore Lyric Opera (SLO) in a rare foray into baroque repertoire. Arias from five of Georg Friderick Handel’s operas and one oratorio (with no Messiah within earshot) were thrillingly delivered by two exciting young voices, soprano Joyce Lee Tung and baritone Alvin Tan.
Familiar favourites included Lascia Ch’io Pianga (from Rinaldo) and Ombra Mai Fu (the ubiquitous Largo, Xerxes), slow numbers with both singers exhibiting fine tonal control, varied colours and emotive qualities. There were also ample opportunities for outright virtuosity, such as in Tornami A Vagheggiar (Alcina) and Da Tempeste Il Legno Infranto (Giulio Cesare), with coloratura flourishes and stratospheric leaps from Lee, or Tan’s vehemence and rage displayed in Piangi Pur (Tolomeo).
Together in the celebratory duet Caro! Bella! Piu Amabile Belta (Giulio Cesare), the duo still managed to find sparks of chemistry despite the social distance of five metres between them. The 13-member SLO Chamber Orchestra conducted by Joshua Kangming Tan provided keen and responsive accompaniment, besides striking out on their own in the Overture To Alcina and the bustling Arrival Of The Queen Of Sheba from Solomon.
Not to be outdone, chamber collective re:Sound offered an evening of wind music from five of its woodwind and brass members. The quintet formed by Goh Tiong Eng (flute), Tay Kai Tze (oboe), Ralph Emmanuel Lim (clarinet), Chester Kang (bassoon) and Alexander Oon (French horn) generated an outsized sonority that easily filled the upper reaches of the hall.
The programme, while not so familiar to general audiences, comprised wind ensemble staples that was both varied and eclectic. After opening cheerfully with Jacques Ibert’s Three Short Pieces, Franz Danzi’s Wind Quintet in D minor provided some sobriety but still raised smiles for the articulate artistry involved.
Two players became soloists themselves, joined by members of re:Sound’s elite string group, the Concordia Quartet. The first movements of Mozart’s Oboe Quartet and Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet contrasted chirpy light-heartedness with autumnal nostalgia. In the latter, Lim’s mellow and long-breathed clarinet part, backed by violinists Edward Tan and Kim Kyu Ri, violist Matthias Oestringer and cellist Theophilus Tan proved the high point of the evening.
The concert concluded with a rare outing for Carl Nielsen’s quirky Wind Quintet. Its three movements combined spiky themes, piquant harmonies and folk influences that both surprised and delighted. The playing was alert to the music’s unusual twists and and turns, even if the finale’s Theme and Variations came across as somewhat disjointed. Nonetheless, these were two evenings well spent with some of Singapore’s finest young musicians.