Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concert Hall
Tuesday (9 October 2012)
This review was published by The Straits Times on 11 October 2012 with the title "Cellists celebrate fathers with tangos".
Several weeks ago, four local cellists paid tribute to their teacher Herminia Ilano, deemed as the “mother of the cello” in Singapore. This evening, the all-cello concert in aid of the Centre For Fathering (CFF) was helmed by Qin Li-Wei and Leslie Tan, mentoring fathers of young cellists at the Conservatory. The 90-minute-long concert of mostly light music by Cellissimo, the Conservatory’s cello studio, was an enjoyable showcase.
First to perform was the quartet led by Tan, cellist of the T’ang Quartet. Opening with Goltermann’s Serenade, a mellow sonority of Straussian richness filled the hall. Each of the four parts could be heard distinctly, with every member holding his or her own without eclipsing the others.
This fine give and take, so vital in chamber music, was keenly overseen by Tan, whose kindly and reassuring glances to his charges was a pleasure to watch. Tan was given the main melody of Toppinen’s Romance, which he lapped up with great fervour as the others wove a web of harmony to a passionate climax.
Qin’s quartet performed three tangos by Astor Piazzolla, the father of “new tango”. The alternating of fast and slow numbers ensured there was not a dull moment. The sentimental melody of Milonga de la Anunciacion was first heard from Qin’s 1780 J.B.Guardagnini cello, which was later passed on seamlessly to his partners.
Oblivion provided some melancholic and pensive moments before the energetic Fuga y Misterio erupted and rocked with some vigorous foot-stamping to augment the bowing and plucking. Like the earlier group, some uncanny form of telepathic communication was at play in the seemingly complex pages. Performers prefer to call it good musicianship.
The biggest ensemble, comprising eight cellists led by Tan, played the longest work on the programme – Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. From the warm breezes of Summer through the bittersweet chill of Winter to the cheerful harbingers of Spring, the freshness of the music was buoyed by finely detailed and exuberant playing. Lee Minjin was confident in her big solos, and every player had their chance in the spotlight, albeit for a few seconds.
To close, Qin’s quartet returned with a vengeance, beginning with Lalo Schifrin’s iconic Mission Impossible Theme. There is not much thematic material to this highly rhythmic riff, but James Barralet’s nifty arrangement in an updated form of a canon milked it for all its worth. Luis Bacalov’s Il Postino, casual and simple, provided the foil to arguably Piazzolla’s most often performed Libertango.
After a long introduction, its unmistakable ostinato and memorable melody soon took shape, giving a vibrant and pulsating close to the concert. The encore, Secret Garden, was dedicated to the pursuit of responsible fatherhood, as noble a cause as any.