concert was yet another sell out one for the SSO, but it was apparent
that quite a few of the audience was there plainly to support home
grown violinist Kam Ning in that played-to-death Tchaikovsky concerto.
Those who had the fortune to stay on after the interval had the
luck of witnessing the artistry of visiting maestro Jahja Ling in
his performance of Shostakovich 5th symphony.
night started off with Mussorgsky's short but very beautiful Prelude
to Khovanschina, completed and orchestrated by Rimsky-Korsakov
for his friend Mussorgsky. The music is wonderfully evocative, sweet
oboe tune drifitng out and leading the orchestra to more delightful
development. The work almost seems to end prematurely as I ravel
in its beauty, and the clarinet tune leading the work to a quiet
ending came all too soon, brief as it was. And the enthusiast in
the row behind me applauded the work all too soon too, almost as
if the intent was to interrupt the ending of the work. True to my
guess, applause had to break out after the Tchaikovsky concerto's
first movement too, but thankfully not in between Shostakovich.
following statement I make will probably sound like a prejudiced
comment and I will not deny that it is - but if the negative reviewers
of the Tchaikovsky violin concerto debut had listened to Kam Ning
perform it, they will probably had given the music worse scathing
remarks. But this the readers have to agree - her interpretation
would have been an act of gross distaste if applied to any other
concertos other than this very virtuoso-accomodating concerto. Personally
I am not in favour of turning any piece of music into a vehicle
for pyrotechnic virtuosity, but that is purely my own opinion of
Ning comes across as a very impressive performer: she muscled her
way through the relentless passages with fingers of steel (this
is not quite just a figment of imagery), her notes on the lower
strings were played with such ferocity that it grated at the heart,
and I seriously believed that she would not finished the concerto
proper because one of her strings would probably break at some point.
And her interpretation really worked to her intentions. Very deliberate
lingering of notes at starting phrases working up to blinding speed,
quirks of phrasing solo passages and startling use of force in playing
all effect to induce heart-stopping drama which I myself am not
impervious to. But that does make a joke out of any other intentions
the score might have, and the Canzonetta after the first movement
was, I felt, really unnecessary - how could I concentrate on her
involvement in that show of lyricism after all those high jinks?
The third movement was a reprisal of the first, an unending rollercoaster
action that undermined any slow parts when the audience was still
reeling from the last shock. Impressive - definitely. But not to
my taste, though that is strictly personal (no hate mails please).
Fifth Symphony, that "Soviet artist's practical creative reply
to criticism" of being "formalist: chaos, not music."
was given a masterful interpretation by visiting conductor Jahja
Ling. Being aware of the 'program' behind the music, the impression
of my first hearing of this symphony under Mr Ling's baton was of
it being a confident and surely delivered performance that convinces
by virtue of its straight-face honesty. That is, he deliverd the
potential of the score to its fullest with the help of an obliging
orchestra, and from the power that the performance exhibited, one
can extrapolate whether any supra-musical ideas were being delivered
in that. The exposition of the opening theme that dominated the
movement in different forms is suitably sombre and is skillfully
vested with more than a hint of threatening violence. The loud rattling
of kettle drums that marks the climax is clearly a deliberate disruptive
development, and it cannot be otherwise than a return to that dismal
start of the opening - through it all Jahja Ling keeps the movement
going along in his focussed direction that expresses all that the
score is worth without exaggeration.
the delightful scherzo that fooled around with a solo violin and
the clumsy bassoons amid scurrying pizzicato notes from the strings,
the symphony dives into the heart of itself into the darkness of
the Largo. The intense emotions from the eight part strings had
Mr Ling wringing pathos from the orchestra, and the strings reciprocated
with similar passion, though it was a passion that was weighted
with a clarity in intention at the overall structure rather than
with wild abandon. The finale was thoroughly blatant in its execution,
all the sections intent on playing themselves into a frenzy. Screeching
strings towards the conclusion blind the senses and was oblivious
to other parts in the score, strangely poignant in its disregard
for the triumphal notes of the brass. It was a strong performance
that really brought out the power of the symphony to disturb, and
though it was difficult to applaud the contributions by the performers
after such an onstage drama, there was no doubt that the applause
was definitely heart felt and sincere.
YONG HUI loves the moment of pure breathless silence
between more than nine hundred people in the same hall after the
pause of the conductor's hand. Now if only he can do the same by
conducting in the MRT cabin.
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