An edited version of this article was published in The Straits Times with the title ‘Classical music reaching out’.
PLAY! by More than Music
Loh Jun Hong and Gabriel Ng, violin, Abigail Sin, piano
Esplanade Recital Studio
More than Music’s approach of making classical music more accessible to public seems to be working like a charm: tickets was sold out yet again days before the concert; and violinists Loh Jun Hong and Gabriel Ng played to a full house in a performance at Orchard Central’s Ya Kun outlet over the weekend for a Symphony 92.4’s inaugural Cafe Concert.
In PLAY!, which welcomed award-winning violinist Gabriel Ng into their society of musicians, the interesting and varied programme comprised mostly of showpieces. Opening and closing the evening were two works for solo violin, but presented by two.
Bach’s Partita no. 1 in B Minor as most know it exists in 8 parts, four dance movements and their doubles which were written twice as fast in notation but played with the same number of impulses in a bar. In what is probably the first of its kind, Loh and Ng overlaid the dance movements with their doubles to create a complex yet coherent web of Bachian counterpoint.
Their playing was wonderfully free, each sensitive to the other’s nuances. The faster Courante and Bourrée were delivered with breathtaking speed and accuracy. Likewise, this was also evident in the closing work, Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen in an excellent arrangement for two violins by Jonathan Shin, where the improvisatory interplay gave way to a fiery finale.
The piano was not quite its usual self, and this was more evident when Sin played Debussy’s L’isle Joyeuse. Sin’s variety of touch and spectrum of tone colour enchanted the audience, but the ravishing radiance of the final bars was mellowed by the muffled tones of the piano. However, the dampened piano worked to Sin’s advantage in the first three pieces of Brahms’ Op. 118 – late Brahms always sounds better on pianos with darker tones – as she created the tempestuous, brooding, tender and poetic moments in his music.
Three delectable miniatures by Kreisler and a Chopin Nocturne revealed another facet of Loh and Ng. Ng combined the sweet, supple tone of his violin with wit and humour in a performance of Kreisler’s Liebeslied and Liebesfreud. Loh, ever the charmer, playfully teased his way through Syncopation, adding rubato wherever he pleased while Sin miraculously kept up with his antics. Later, Loh played Chopin’s Nocturne in C-sharp Minor, arranged by Milstein for violin and piano, with an exquisitely singing tone and delicate phrasing.
Two encores, the Sarabande from Bach’s Partita no. 2 by Sin, and Vittorio Monti’s ever popular Czardas arranged and performed by Loh and Ng, were gleefully lapped by the audience. The growing number of fans only proves one thing: that classical music is cool, and very much alive.