Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concert Hall
6 June 2017)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 8 June 2017 with the title "Thrilling youngsters".
There are too few weeks in a year, such that the 2nd Singapore Violin Festival had to be held exactly the same time as the 24th Singapore International Piano Festival. In any case, the violin festival (29 May to 6 June) was the longer event and there was no clash for its well-attended final gala concert.
Instead of performances from its star-studded teaching faculty, the audience witnessed a stunning line-up of young violinists. The famous French violinist-pedagogue Pierre Amoyal, a faculty member, emphasised that virtuosity for its own sake was not the raison d'etre of the festival, but rather the kind of all-rounded musicianship imparted by his own master, the great Jascha Heifetz.
The evening's first performance was both an ear and eye-opening. One might scarcely believe that someone as diminutive as Chloe Chua (
) could craft the voluminous sound and super-accurate
double-stopping in Wieniawski's unaccompanied Etude-Caprice (Op.18
No.2). Her natural and unforced technique, allied with a total lack of
self-consciousness had to be seen to be believed. Singapore
More came in Saint-Saens' Rondo Capriccioso with Nurie Chung (South Korea), as a thoughtfully-phrased introduction soon gave way to a final flourish of fireworks. His compatriot Nakyung Kang gave a fully-nuanced reading of Hungarian Jeno Hubay's Carmen Fantasy, a darker and more episodic work than the famous Sarasate and Waxman versions. The level of maturity displayed thus far was astounding.
In playing the Adagio and Fugue from Bach's Sonata No.1 in G minor, Wendi Wang (
) had the unenviable task of coming so soon after Midori's
masterly account of the same work just a week ago. Her lovely tone, clarity of
expression and total composure however showed she had been well-tutored. China
The most senior player was Shi Xiaoxuan (
), an alumnus of Yong Siew Toh Conservatory. Her handling of
abrupt dynamic shifts in Lutoslawski's Subito was admirable, combining
well with an equally adroit Ge Xiaozhe on piano. They even made this late 20th
century work sound almost Romantic. China
Kim Donghyun (
perhaps not yet fully ready to take on the rigours of Paganini's very familiar Caprice
No.24 in A minor, but his work in progress still showed plenty of promise. South
Arguably the best performance of the evening came from Jiang Yiying (
) in Wieniawski's Faust Fantasy, based on themes from
Gounod's opera and the longest work on show. There were stretches of slow music
in which her violin sang unabated, so beautifully that loud snoring was heard
from the front rows of the auditorium. When it came to letting rip in the final
waltz, she did so without further invitation. China
The evening closed with Ysaye's fearsome arrangement of Saint-Saens' Etude in the Form of a Waltz, with Lisa Yasuda (
) overcoming with aplomb the tricky three-quarter rhythm
with the help of pianist Evgeni Sinaisky. Japan
Eight players in eight masterpieces. The future of violin-playing is literally in their hands.