Wednesday 27 April 2022



T’ang Quartet

Victoria Concert Hall

Friday (22 April 2022)




Singapore Symphony Orchestra

Esplanade Concert Hall

Saturday (23 April 2022)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 27 April 2022 with the title "T'ang Quartet, Chloe Chua dazzle in weekend of strings".


Thirty years ago, four men in their twenties burst onto the local musical scene. Raising eyebrows and turning heads with an in-your-face attitude and style, they were admired and adored by the chic hipster demographic for their edgy and passionate performances. Formed by violinists Ng Yu-Ying and Ang Chek Meng, violist Lionel Tan and cellist Leslie Tan, they were the T’ang Quartet, Singapore’s first full-time professional chamber group. Chamber music, often considered staid and all-too-serious, was never to be the same again.


Today, the Tan brothers have retired from quartet-playing, replaced by younger colleagues violist Han Oh and cellist Wang Zihao. The quartet’s new incarnation made its debut with contrasting string quartets by Joseph Haydn and Alexander Borodin to no less fanfare. For Haydn’s Quartet in D minor (Op.76 No.2), nicknamed Fifths because of the descending interval that opened its first movement, the foursome was a model of decorum and discipline. With tightly-knit ensemble work, genuine tension was raised in the fast outer movements, but never in expense of clarity or warmth.


In Borodin’s familiar Second String Quartet (well-known as the Broadway musical Kismet had borrowed its melodies), there was more room to luxuriate. By playing its third movement’s radiant Notturno straight and without gilding the edges, sheer beauty was amply brought out. Judging by cheers and long line for autographs, some things for the rebooted T’ang Quartet have not changed.  

A long line to meet and greet the T'ang Quartet.
What else is new?


In 2018, an 11-year-old Chloe Chua made the headlines by sharing first prize in the Yehudi Menuhin Violin Competition (Junior division). She enchanted international audiences with a highly assured yet sensitive performance of Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Now 15, she has recorded a CD of all the Seasons with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, and this concert was its live showcase.


While commanding the stage like a seasoned veteran, she retains an innocent girlish charm that would melt the stoniest of hearts. For her, it is no longer a matter of playing right notes, but one of making music with a spontaneity that comes as naturally as breathing. In tutti sections, she blended as one with the orchestra, then emerging with a solo voice that could only be described as sheer poetry.


Whether imitating bird songs, torrential rain storms, hunting horns or falling snow, she was fully absorbed with every measure and turn of phrase. Who could fault the audience for applauding after each season and every fast movement, just to catch her winsome smile?


The ante was upped in Pietro Locatelli’s Violin Concerto in D major (Op.3 No.12), also known as the Harmonic Labyrinth. Longer than any of the Seasons, its outer movements culminated with capriccios, the most fiendishly difficult of solo passages. Literally a compendium of contemporary virtuoso playing, Chloe took these in her stride, fearlessly letting rip and then some. Should a history of string-playing in Singapore be written in some distant future, surely T’ang Quartet and Chloe Chua would count among its highest lights.


Chloe Chua / SSO photos by Nathaniel Lim, courtesy of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

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