Home-grown violinist Siow Lee Chin to perform Singaporean work at Carnegie Hall

At 15, Ms Siow was the first Singaporean to be admitted to the world-renowned Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. It also led to a slew of awards and a jet-setting career with performances in venues such as New York’s Carnegie Hall and Londo
At 15, Ms Siow was the first Singaporean to be admitted to the world-renowned Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. It also led to a slew of awards and a jet-setting career with performances in venues such as New York’s Carnegie Hall and London’s Royal Albert Hall.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Home-grown violinist Siow Lee Chin to play work by Cultural Medallion recipient Kam Kee Yong at the famed New York venue

It has been 26 years since Singaporean violinist Siow Lee Chin first took the stage at New York's prestigious Carnegie Hall.

Then, the young virtuoso played the Western classics: Beethoven, Prokofiev, Dvorak.

Siow, now 50 and a performer of greater international repute, will play again at the century-old concert hall on Feb 8. This time, she will be putting the spotlight on Singaporean music.

In the widest repertoire of Singaporean and Chinese music she has ever programmed in a recital, she will perform works by Singaporean Cultural Medallion recipient Kam Kee Yong and up-and-coming Chinese composer Yao Chen.


At her concert on Feb 8, violinist Siow Lee Chin (above) will also perform the New York premiere of Air, a solo work written for her by up-and-coming Chinese composer Yao Chen. PHOTO: ALAN LIM STUDIO

The two-hour concert in Carnegie's Weill Recital Hall will also feature Russian pianist Svetlana Smolina and French eurythmic artist Gabrielle Armenier.

Siow, who at the age of 15 became the first Singaporean admitted to the world-renowned Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, says she is "thrilled" to premiere Kam's Kuang Xiang Qu (Chinese Rhapsody) in the United States.

In an e-mail interview from Charleston in the US, where she is based, she waxes lyrical about Kam's work. "His pieces evoke lots of Impressionist colours."

Kam, 78, is an old friend of her late father, former Singapore Symphony Orchestra violinist Siow Hee Shun.

The pioneer composer, who believes that talented local musicians and composers should be given more opportunities, says: "I am truly touched by Lee Chin's keen interest in performing my work, Kuang Xiang Qu, at Carnegie Hall."

In Siow's programme, Kuang Xiang Qu serves as the Asian counterpoint to French composer Maurice Ravel's Tzigane, which she will perform before the Singapore piece.

The pairing is part of Siow's plan to reflect the "yin and yang of her musical experiences", having spent many years in the US and also a stint in China from 2013 to 2015, where she helped set up the strings programme in the new Soochow University School of Music.

In that vein, she will open the recital with Cesar Franck's Violin Sonata In A Major, which she will match later with the Butterfly Lovers' Violin Concerto, one of the most famous modern works of Chinese music.

She will also perform the New York premiere of Air, a solo work written for her by Yao, associate professor in composition at Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music and who has also composed for Grammy Award-winning ensembles.

Air, which made its world debut at the 2015 City of London Festival, takes equal inspiration from the church-tone qualities of J.S. Bach's violin sonatas and the romantic lines of Eugene Ysaye's solo sonatas.

Siow's professors at Curtis, Aaron Rosand and Jascha Brodsky, studied with the disciples of the Belgian-born Ysaye, who was regarded in his day as the "King of the Violin".

Siow, who has a partner, says of Air: "Its character is song-like and a good fit for my style - warm, tender and otherworldly. It is a piece infused with poignant longing."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 31, 2017, with the headline 'Singaporean music goes to Carnegie'. Print Edition | Subscribe