Dazzling night of keyboards and strings

(From left) Singaporean pianist Abigail Sin, Professor Thomas Hecht from the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, violinist Ng Yu-Ying from T’ang Quartet and violinist Loh Jun Hong.
(From left) Singaporean pianist Abigail Sin, Professor Thomas Hecht from the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, violinist Ng Yu-Ying from T’ang Quartet and violinist Loh Jun Hong.PHOTO: MORE THAN MUSIC

REVIEW / CONCERT

SIDE BY SIDE

Abigail Sin and Thomas Hecht (pianos), Loh Jun Hong and Ng Yu-Ying (violins)/Esplanade Recital Studio/Thursday

Welcoming the audience to the 10th session of their More Than Music chamber series, Abigail Sin and Loh Jun Hong promised that they were going to show that one plus one equalled three.

They were wrong. They showed that it equalled considerably more.

Both paired off with their respective former professors for a programme of duo performances.

The combination of exceptionally gifted musicians, superbly crafted music and players with an instinctive knowledge of the other's approach, created such expansive soundscapes that it was impossible to accept the evidence before our eyes. Surely such richly varied and complex sounds could not have been produced by just two players?

Thomas Hecht, a renowned and much-loved teacher (evidenced by the adulation of his current students in the audience), partnered Sin in Debussy's Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Faun and Ravel's La Valse.

Two keyboards, 20 fingers, six pedals and four feet - that was what the audience clearly saw. Yet Sin and Hecht drew a dazzling array of colours and effects, as well as a vast breadth of tone from some private pianistic paradise.

The Debussy shimmered and glowed in a way which made the composer's two-piano version almost more intensely beautiful than his famous orchestral one.

And Ravel's evocative melding of 19th-century hedonism with 20th-century aggression was given a wonderfully vivid edge by the addition of Hecht's percussive footwork and the pair's astonishing unity of gesture.

That was awesome, but it was nothing compared with what came in the concert's second half.

Singapore's musical pin-up boy and T'ang Quartet first violinist Ng Yu-Ying joined Loh in a rare performance of Eugene Ysaye's extraordinarily difficult Sonata for two solo violins.

Between them, they had just two bows and eight strings, yet the sound they produced was orchestral in its scope.

At times, the slick and smoochy close harmonies had something of a barbershop ensemble about it, but Ysaye's extremely complex work draws sounds from the two violins which defy description.

It was as if chords of six, seven, maybe eight notes were being produced from these seemingly meagre musical resources.

Probably it was sensible for Loh to break off between each movement and offer his soppily simplistic take on the music (frequently drawing from sci-fi movies), since for all the ingenuity of the writing, Ysaye's music is over-heavy on lush harmonies.

But the real joy was in watching the two perfectly coordinated players draw such incredible effects from their instruments.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2017, with the headline 'Dazzling night of keyboards and strings'. Print Edition | Subscribe