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Concert review: Choo Huey, 80, still dynamic at SSO's 35th anniversary concert

Published on Jan 19, 2014 10:28 AM

In the summer of 1996, Choo Hoey gave his final concert as Music Director of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra conducting Richard Strauss' Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Life). Elevated to Conductor Emeritus, he was given the honour of helming the orchestra's 35th Anniversary Concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall on Saturday, with Strauss' music again on the menu.

The much shorter tone poem Don Juan provided a sizzling opener. One could be forgiven for not expecting the 80-year-old maestro to maintain such a sprightly gait, mounting the podium with a spring that suggests someone a quarter of his age.

He directed with broad strokes from a slight torso, animated as before but gone were the fidgety, spasmodic and sometimes violent gestures from his earlier years. As always, Choo is a veritable dynamo, one who does not rest until he gets he wants.

What we the audience got was a youthful account of a warhorse, with brass and strings in superb form, the eponymous rake of legend striding high with his string of conquests and amours. The quartet of French horns in the big melody was a pride to behold, but it was the more tender moments that held sway: Lynnette Seah's short violin solo, and the delightful duet between oboist Pan Yun and clarinettist Li Xin.

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