Wednesday 27 October 2021

SOARING WITH THE WIND / Concordia Quartet / Review


Concordia Quartet

Victoria Concert Hall

Wednesday (20 October 2021)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 27 October 2021 withe the title "Concordia Quartet soars in live return".


It was back in April when the members of re:Sound Collective last presented a live concert. Coming out of pandemic mode, they returned with a vengeance in a substantial programme of music by Mozart and Grieg, spearheaded by the Concordia Quartet.


Not having performed for months may have resulted in a certain diffidence, but not so this four-member string ensemble which made its debut last year just before the virus arrived on Singapore shores. Opening with Mozart’s late Clarinet Quintet in A major (K.581) was just the right tonic, especially when partnered with clarinettist Ralph Emmanuel Lim, one of Singapore’s most accomplished young woodwind players.


This combo had earlier impressed with the first movement from Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet in January, and this perfomance was even better. Lim, with his rich and mellow sonority, almost nonchalant virtuosity and engaging personality, commanded the stage from the first entry. His clarity of phrasing and ease of articulation stood out in the opening movement, before song-like qualities coming to the fore in the slow movement, a close cousin of the Adagio from Mozart’s famous Clarinet Concerto.


Melodic lines were not just limited to Lim alone, as first violinist Edward Tan had his fair share, as did cellist Theophilus Tan. Together with second violinist Kim Kyu Ri and violist Matthias Oestringer, the quartet supported the enterprise to the hilt, not least in the sprightly Minuet and the concluding Theme and Variations movement. The free-wheeling quality in the finale made this performance a thoroughly enjoyable encounter.     


An air of seriousness opened Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s String Quartet in G minor, which the foursome responded with a Beethovenian show of intent. The bigness of sound was breathtaking, as if played by a far larger group of strings. Even if one casts the memory back to 2017, when all the strings of re:Sound played in Richard Tognetti’s arrangement of this quartet, this evening’s showing was no less involving.


The music sounded familiar in parts, as Grieg had recycled a rhythmic theme from his ever-popular Piano Concerto, using it as a recurrent leitmotif all through the four movements. Solemnity gave way to the folksy homespun quality usually associated with rustic Nordic dance music, which was gratefully lapped up by the quartet.


The slow movement possessed a lyricism that resembled many of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces for piano, where the cello carried the melodic interest. Cohesiveness was the mainstay in the stormy third movement, where there was also sentimentality on display. In an imitation of country fiddling, cello, viola and violin took their turns on a particularly bucolic melody.


For a work that even exceeded Grieg’s piano concerto in length, the quartet managed its pacing and dynamic contrasts very well. It closed with a riproaring Presto alla Saltarello, based on an Italian dance in rapid triple time, with the resulting long and loud applause being well deserved.

No comments: