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Concert review: Nafa group shows promising future for Chinese instrumental music

Published on Mar 14, 2014 10:14 AM

Like the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory that trains young professional musicians to play in Singapore's symphony orchestras, it is the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts which grooms instrumentalists for a career in ensembles like the Singapore Chinese Orchestra and Ding Yi Music Company. Similarly, the Academy also hones composers for contemporary Chinese music.

This hour-long concert on Thursday night by the Nafa Chinese Chamber Ensemble - mostly conducted by Quek Ling Kiong, resident conductor of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra - provided a brief glimpse of the budding compositional talent for Chinese instrumental music here. The future does appear promising at the very least.

The concert at the Lee Foundation Theatre began with Zhou Tie's Act Five, a quintet for erhu, bamboo flute, pipa, ruan and percussion. The ensemble's assignment was both dramatic and atonal, employing short fragments with the economy that recalled the Second Viennese School works of Anton Webern.

Ernest Thio's Batu Belah for four huqins (two erhus, gaohu and zhonghu) and cello was based on a familiar Malay song. Operating on a rather narrow dynamic range, the work could have benefited from an expansion or development of the thematic material, and the performance from more accurate intonation.

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