Orchestra of the Music Makers
School of the Arts Concert Hall
22 June 2012)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 25 June 2012 with the title "Great end to a tour sneak peek".
This fact may have gone under the radar: the Orchestra of the Music Makers (OMM) will become the first Singaporean orchestra to be the resident ensemble of a major British music festival. During the first week of July, OMM led by Chan Tze Law will perform three concerts at the
Cheltenham and Lichfield Festivals. This evening’s concert afforded a sneak preview of its interpretively demanding tour repertoire.
The Anglo-French programme opened with Frederick Delius’s Paris - Song of a Great City, a work that owes more to the so-called French impressionist aesthete than English pastoral traditions. Its quiet beginning, evocative of a metropolis fitfully arousing from slumber, demonstrated a fine control of instrumental forces. Howard Ng’s excellent oboe solo led the procession, which ambled through insouciant dances while alternating moments of quiet contemplation and outright gaiety. Quixotic yet coquettish, Delius knew how to be very French.
In the transcription by Andre Caplet of Debussy’s piano piece Pagodes, the mystique of the Orient was however not so well captured. The lead-footed trudge had nothing on the shimmering original work, its carillons of gamelans and gongs being bogged down in soggy padi fields.
American pianist Thomas Hecht, Head of Piano at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, was the scintillating soloist in Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major. His firm grasp of its jazzy idiom and rhythmic drive was the bedrock upon which this performance thrived, exhibiting Mozartean clarity in the slow movement and sure-fingered incisiveness elsewhere. Only in the mad scramble of the Presto finale did nerves fray, with some orchestral solos going awry or astray. For the July Cheltenham outing with Melvyn Tan, more tightness will be expected.
Any hint of being less than totally well-prepared evaporated in the second half with an invigorating performance of Holst’s Beni Mora, a suite of three dances inspired by
Algeria. A musty incense-laden aroma filled the air, as the orchestra negotiated its exotic sonorities and rhythmic subtleties with great confidence. Kelly Loh’s alto flute, made to play a sinuous repeated motif 163 times, provided the key to the final dance’s success.
Two years ago, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra took Debussy’s La Mer to
London’s Royal Festival Hall with much critical acclaim. OMM’s take on the same work was to be no less gripping, and here conductor Chan has to take credit for tautly leading his charges through the music’s surging waves and ripping tides. Judging the flow to perfection, the overall impulse was one of unimpeded buoyancy, best exemplified in the middle movement, Play of the Waves. Never lightweight and with no details glossed over, this was one performance the young musicians should be proud of.
As an encore, the Singapore-Britain connection was celebrated with Eric Watson’s Intersections, a celebratory work that fully highlighted and exploited all sections of the orchestra. Whether playing on Javanese scales or reliving the hallowed brass-band culture of British collieries and coalminers, this happy East-meets-West encounter made for a rousing close. OMM’s stay in
UK is going to be a hit.