Ravel showcase of exquisite colour

01 November 2018
The Straits Times, Life! Page D8

China-born soprano Su Yiwen - singing in French the words of Ravel's friend, French poet Tristan Klingsor - played a large part in the aural magic. The Orchestra is conducted by Lim Yau. (Photo credit: Andrew Bi Photography)

The Straits Times wrote a review of a concert entitled RAVEL TONIGHT. The Orchestra was conducted by Lim Yau, Dean of NAFA’s School of Music (SOM). The two soloists are also affiliated to NAFA - Nicholas Ong, the pianist in the concerto is SOM’s Senior Lecturer, and Su Yiwen, the soprano is NAFA alumni. The orchestra in this concert, The Philharmonic, is made up of at least 50% of NAFA’s current students and Alumni from the SOM. Below is a short summary of the review:

The Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Lim Yau continued with its Composers Tonight series of concerts, with a tribute to French composer Maurice Ravel (1875 to 1937). Ravel was renowned for his skill of orchestration, creating works of original and exquisite instrumental colour and all three works on the programme reflected that gift. Beginning with the song cycle Sheherazade, with three movements inspired by the tales of the Arabian Nights, the emphasis was on conjuring up an exotic tonal allure.

China-born soprano Su Yiwen - singing in French the words of Ravel's friend, French poet Tristan Klingsor - played a large part in the aural magic. Her voice was sufficiently sensuous and strong enough to carry across the occasionally overenthusiastic orchestral playing. The opening song, Asia, set the mood, followed by excellent solo flute playing, which prefaced and closed The Enchanted Flute and a final tease in The Indifferent One.

Totally different was Ravel's Piano Concerto In G Major, a work so unique that it incorporated Basque influences with those of New World jazz. Malaysian pianist Nicholas Ong was a most persuasive soloist, one who perfectly judged its idioms, pacing and nuances. Knowing when to act coy, then ratcheting up the temperature in insistent syncopations for the opening movement and settling down with Mozartian clarity in the slow movement was all part of the game. The exciting prestidigitation of the Presto finale brought down the house, which was rewarded with Ong's solo encore, the stately Minuet slow movement from Ravel's Sonatine.

All through this drama, there were also many taxing solo parts for the orchestral musicians, all of whom readily stepped up to the plate. The harpist had a demanding cadenza of her own and woodwinds - critical to the music's sound palette - were also excellent. Even the percussionist, who operated the whip (essentially two pieces of wood smartly snapped together), was spot-on. The concert closed with Bolero, one of Ravel's most popular works, which he famously declared "a work without music".

All in all, it was a Sunday afternoon well spent.

View the full article here.

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.