November 3, 2013

Synergy in Music 2013 – A review

Synergy in Music 2013 – A review
Sheep decides to review the concert instead

1 November 2013
School Of The Arts Concert Hall

The number of audience members could not do justice to the superb performance at SOTA last evening. Perhaps it is because of all the other surrounding events overshadowing this concert – the Viva Verdi Gala concert by the SSO, the opening of the Singapore Writers’ Festival, and the ongoing Singapore Biennale that the concert hall was only about 60% filled. With three concertos and a 5-minute long overture on the programme, it was obvious that the role of the newly-formed Young Musicians’ Foundation Orchestra was to support and accompany the solo performances of three of Russia’s most prominent young musicians. Beginning with the rarely-performed Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus by Beethoven, the orchestra was energetic and concise, fully engaged in following their founder and conductor Darrell Ang.

Baeva decides to take on Ang in an arm-wrestling competition after the concerto while Sheep watches from the front row

Stradivarius violin in hand, Alena Baeva walked onstage in a red gown and gave a rendition of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto as fiery as the shade of red she was in. It was a little unusual that her instrument sounded a little thin and sharp, and a little forced at times. The balance between soloist and orchestra was even for most part, but she sometimes receded into the orchestral textures. Baeva’s crisp articulation after the cadenza in the first movement contrasted refreshingly with the melody in the high winds and violins. The second movement, joined to the first by a single bassoon, was sweet and serene, and led to the daringly fast finale, where the cellos had to rush their singing countermelodic line because she seemed to be pulling them along with her. Her bow control was always impeccable though, navigating through the quick tempo with an impressive agility.

Uryupin looking relieved that he put up a good performance 

Clarinet soloist Valentin Uryupin then took the spotlight, looking stressed and a little nervous. He nodded to Ang to start the concerto, and only realised that he forgot to tune after the orchestra started! He managed to tune during the course of the 47-bar orchestral introduction and was visibly calmer afterwards. As if the solo part to the first movement of Weber’s First Concerto wasn’t difficult enough, Uryupin further embellished it with ornaments, impressing this writer and possibly all the other clarinettists in the audience. The Adagio was beautifully poetic, and showed off his softer side with phrases that seemed to start and end from nowhere. Somewhere in the middle, the orchestra was reduced to a horn trio which accompanied him in a luscious chorale. Like the third movement of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto before, the Rondo was a thrilling joyride, taken at a breakneck speed. The orchestra kept up ably this time though, with the razor-sharp precision that was displayed in the opening Overture.

Finally, a smile from the brooding Buzlov

The opening of the continuous single-movement Saint-Saëns was dramatic, powerful and brooding, very much like how Alexander Buzlov looked. The drama soon gave way to heartfelt  lyricism, his personality emerging as the bold voice of his cello soared above and sometimes playfully interacting with the orchestra. He played as though the bow was an extension of his arm, a part of him, effortlessly tossing off the technical hurdles, navigating through the double-stopped passages while still keeping the rich, sonorous tone. It was a pity that the orchestra was not given more solo repertoire, the musicians were sensitive, responding well to Ang’s robust strokes. Particularly noteworthy were the cellos and the first oboe, whose expressive solos in the Saint-Saëns gave an added sparkle to what was already a spectacular evening.

This concert was organised by energy group Gazprom as part of their Synergy in Music movement.

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