Sponsored by Singapore Press Holding’s Gift of Music Series, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) performed a lunchtime concert today at the Victoria Memorial Hall. Perhaps due to the publicity, the queue to enter the hall was already quite long (I estimated about 200 people in front of me) half an hour before the commencement of the concert. It was presented and conducted by the Associate Conductor of the SSO, Jason Lai.
The opening piece is the endearing Morning Mood from Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite No 1 Op 46. The music depicts a sunrise over a desert after Peer Gynt is stranded in Morocco by his friends, and he is sitting in his tree using a branch to defend himself against a group of monkeys. I was immersed in the sunny, beautiful dawn until baby’s cries and people coughing spoiled the mood!
Johannes Brahms’ Third Movement (Poco allegretto) from Symphony No 3 in F Major Op 90 is Lai’s favourite. It is a lullaby meant to soothe, but it also has a seriousness to it, combined with a sense of romance that is truly beautiful. It is also slightly different from most lullabies as it is in a minor key. I love the beautiful cello solo passage that gets repeated and dressed differently. The middle section highlighted the winds, and listening to the colours and sounds is just an incredible experience!
The next treat is a preview of a concert in next April, to commemorate the 100th Birth anniversary of the composer Leonard Bernstein. Selections from West Side Story today include I Feel Pretty, Maria (my favourite of the day), Something’s coming, Tonight, One Hand, One Heart, Cool and America. I especially liked the harp and violins singing the melodies before being joined by the entire string section and then the whole orchestra, ending on a high and triumphant note. Mr Lai himself was a delight to watch – his beautiful, expressive body language and gestures was simply infectious!
Another pop concert in the works (in August) is Ennio Morricone”s Cinema Paradiso. The excerpts played today are: Theme, First Youth, Love Theme. For me, the best part was the opening with a long solo passage played by the piano, before the violins then the rest of the strings joined in. (How come it didn’t sound as lovely when I played it on my piano?)
The final piece of the day was Manuel De Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance from El amor brujo. The music, depicting the worshipping of the fire goddess and dancing by the fire has a fiery and Oriental/tribal flavour. Pianist Shane Thio succeeded in making the piano sound like the percussion instrument that it is. Despite three curtain calls , there was no encore as the concert had exceeded the stated duration. Most in the audience would have to scurry back to work.