Concert : Singapore Symphony Orchestra

Sponsored by media group Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), the 2016 season of the SPH Gift of Music series kicked off yesterday with an one-hour lunchtime concert performed by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) and conducted by Jason Lai, a leading light in a new generation of Asian conductors.

The Gift of Music began in 2005 to help local musicians showcase their talent and expand their reach. These concerts are played in malls, parks, the heartland and various concert halls to packed audiences. Yesterday’s performance was held at the Victoria Concert Hall and played to a full house of more than 600 people.

Lai began by thanking the audience for sacrificing their lunch to be there, and promised that everyone would be “filled up with music”. True to his words, he and the SSO gave the audience a fantastic time indeed. I particularly enjoyed Lai in action: his body language and gestures were absolutely expressive and riveting. It was a real joy watching him conduct and I felt my spirits soaring with his hands. I could feel his driving force and bursts of energy as he bounced and lifted his legs and made sweeping movements with his hands. Whether he was on tip toes and with his hands up in the air or in a crouching stance with fingers moving expressively, elegantly and subtly, I could feel the exhilaration and the emotions intended. Perhaps it was also partly due to the fact that I was lucky enough to be seated at a vintage point, but I definitely would want to watch hm conducting again!

I was also very impressed by the concertmaster, Lynette Seah, a Cultural Medallion receipient. Her solo rendition of Yumeji’s Theme (from In the Mood for Love) was sensitive, dignified and upright, even though the poignant melody was a little over the top. She did great justice to this sad and beautiful waltz.

Other pieces included:

  • 5th movement from Orchestral Suite No 1 in C major, BWV 1066 by Johann Sebastian Bach ( 1685-1750) – This piece is written in the traditional French dance form of a Minuet with a contrasting middle section;
  • 3rd movement from Symphony no 7 in A major, Op 92 by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) – This movement is a Scherzo, a ‘joke’ or a fast moving movement in a symphony developed from the Minuet, with a series of highly explosive rhythmic figures;
  • 2nd movement from Swan Lake Suite, Op 20a by Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) – One of the most frequently performed ballets worldwide, this is yet another dance with three beats in a bar, and this Waltz has been featured in the musical Billy Eliot and the films Anna Karenina and Black Swan;
  • 2nd movement from Symphony No 5 in D minor, Op 47 by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) – This is another Scherzo from a very different time. It is a parody of a waltz, featuring the musical equivalents of biting sarcasm and sardonic humour and expressing the grim realities of daily life during Stalin’s rule of the Soviet Union;
  • Yumeji’s theme from In The Mood For Love by Shigeru Umebayashi (B 1951) – This is a haunting waltz depicting the turbulent life of Japanese artist Takehisa Yumeji and is featured in Wong Kar-Wai’s (a Hong Kong director) 2000 film In The Mood For Love;
  • On The Beautiful Blue Danube, Op 314 by Johann Strauss II (1825-1899) – Perhaps the most readily recognisable of Strauss’ waltzes, this piece contains delightful and memorable tunes, and has been a great success with its iconic opening and first waltz.

I look forward to the next concert in the SPH Gift of Music series!

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