A ROMANTIC REMINISCENCE / Singapore National Youth Orchestra / Review

A ROMANTIC REMINISCENCE
Singapore National Youth Orchestra
Esplanade Concert Hall
Thursday (28 July 2011)


This review was published in The Straits Times on 30 July 2011 with the title "Conductor's energetic debut".



High-flying Singaporean conductor Darrell Ang (left) was appointed Music Director of the Singapore National Youth Orchestra (SNYO) late last year, but audiences had to wait some eight months before his first concert with his charges in that capacity. It was well worth it given the new found energy and vitality that possesses the ensemble.

The opening bars of Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmilla Overture made its mark immediately. The turbo-charged pace from the outset seemed initially implausible, but this high wire act seemed to thrive on a surfeit of adrenaline. Stunningly accuracy at high velocity, with the strings singing with natural and unfettered ease, gave this opener the stamp of greatness.




More followed as the orchestra partnered local virtuoso Lim Yan (left) for Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto, a second performance of this rare gem within the space of two weeks. For certain, young Lim yielded nothing to the stupendous reading by Russian veteran Nikolai Demidenko with the Singapore Symphony a fortnight ago. Only the approach was radically different.

While Demidenko highlighted its tragedy with far slower tempos, Lim’s more sprightly account brought out the implicit irony and satire. When it came to the crunch of the gargantuan first movement cadenza and rapid-fire cascades of notes, the younger man matched blow for blow and came off with fewer misses. These two brilliant performances were the stuff of dreams.

In terms of instrumental achievement, the orchestra’s view of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony will have to take some beating. Conducting completely from memory, Ang honed a tight and urgently driven traversal, yet one that was never hectic or harried. Always allowing the music to breathe, there were long stretches of seamless beauty and utter coherence that held the work together.


Strings were particularly mellow, with a homogeneous refinement and suppleness that reminded one of the far more experienced SSO. Also highly confident were the wind and brass solos, with Alan Kartik’s French horn (left) in the slow movement being the pick of the crop.

The valedictory final movement summed up the group’s enormous potential. No longer were notes being dutifully churned out but actually breathed and cherished, and the nail-biting lead up to the triumphant climax had a feverish quality never previously realised. A strong SNYO can only mean a better future for classical music in Singapore.