Wednesday 25 August 2021



Singapore Symphony Orchestra

Victoria Concert Hall

Thursday (19 August 2021)


AZARIAH TAN Piano Recital

Esplanade Recital Studio

Friday (20 August 2021)


YANG SHUXIANG Violin Recital

Esplanade Recital Studio

Saturday (21 August 2021) 

This review was published in The Straits Times on 25 August 2021 with the title "Homegrown talents shine in saxophone, piano and violin".


Whether now is a good time to be a young professional musician is debatable. While competition for performance opportunities is stiff due to sheer numbers of homegrown talents, the dearth of visiting overseas artists has also meant that locals get a better chance to be heard. One thing is certain: many of Singapore’s young soloists are excellent and often comparable with those of international standing.

Photo: Singapore Symphony Orchestra / Aloysius Lim


A shining example is saxophonist Samuel Phua, recent graduate from Finland’s Sibelius Academy, who performed the Saxophone Concerto of Russian composer Alexander Glazunov with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra led by music director Hans Graf. Not only did he have the requisite expertise to overcome the single-movement work’s technical hurdles, his alto saxophone’s creamy smooth tone also oozed charm and seductiveness.


Whether in lyrical passages or young composer Jonathan Shin’s tricky cadenza specially written for this performance, Phua was spot on in his execution. As if further proof of prowess were needed, the encore of Gershwin’s Promenade, arranged by SSO librarian Avik Chari, was stylish swagger personified.


The balance of the concert illustrated Mozart’s genius in two contrasting serenades. Serenata Notturno and A Musical Joke were perfect examples how to properly craft or ruin a composition respectively. The former was taken perfectly straight, while the latter played strictly for laughs, and one admits it takes true skill to make deliberately music sound bad.


On two consecutive evenings presented by the Kris Foundation, pianist Azariah Tan performed a solo recital as well as partnered violinist Yang Shuxiang. In the recital, two early Romantic sonatas by Chopin and Schubert were coupled to gripping effect. Both composers had led tragically short lives, prematurely curtailed by infectious diseases.

Photo: Kris Foundation / Lisa Peh


In the tuberculous Chopin’s Third Sonata, Tan found the right balance of tortured self-reflection and outright passion, evidenced in the nocturne-like slow movement and tumultuous finale. Even better was his journey through the syphilitic Schubert’s sprawling Sonata in A major (D.959), a slow burn that captured world-weariness in the most lyrical way possible. Through his ten fingers, Tan became a vivid storyteller.       

Photo: Kris Foundation / Lisa Peh


Heart-on-sleeve expressiveness defined Yang in his account of three Austro-German violin sonatas. The brief diversion that was Hindemith’s Sonata (Op.11 No.1) was merely a prelude to Schubert’s Grand Duo in A major (D.574), where its sheer congeniality and melodiousness could just melt hearts. This was chamber music at its most intimate, the give and take between violinist and pianist being close to perfection.

Photo: Kris Foundation / Lisa Peh


And when one thought the passion quotient had been exhausted, then came Richard Strauss’ Violin Sonata, a concerto-like romp through the full gamut of emotions. Yang’s brawny string tone and faultless intonation, allied with natural showmanship, made his performance a truly memorable one. The last three evenings proved that one does not need to leave our shores to witness greatness of musical artistry. 


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