Intoxicating performance from musician twins

REVIEW / CONCERT

TWIN TRAVELLERS

Tan Su-Min & Tan Su-Hui

Esplanade Recital Studio/Thursday

Every once in a generation, there comes a pair of musical twin sisters to take the Singapore music scene by storm. In the 1990s, it was pianists Low Shao Ying and Shao Suan, both graduates of the Paris Conservatory.

This decade belongs to the 25- year-old Tan twins, zhongruan player Su-Min and guzheng exponent Su-Hui, who completed their education at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and Shanghai Conservatory.

Their debut recital, part of Esplanade's Chinese Chamber Music Series, was a confident 70-minute showcase of their performing, composing and arrangement skills. The first three works were of classical origin, beginning with the sisters' arrangement of Mei Hua Yin (Impressions Of The Plum Blossom), where they were joined by xiao (vertical flute) player Tan Qing Lun.

The xiao's plaintiveness and contrasting qualities of the strummed and plucked string instruments transported one back to a time of antiquity. The mood was initially subdued, but worked itself to a stirring climax. A similar schema was seen in Ruan Ji's The Drunkard (from the era of the Three Kingdoms), where the duo took turns to carry the serenade's melodies and accompaniment to a tipsy conclusion.

Su-Hui's performance of the old Hakka tune Chu Shui Lian (Lotus On Water) revelled in its high registers where a wealth of detail was gloriously expressed. Not to be outdone, Su-Min's highly virtuosic performance of the toccata-like first movement of Liu Xing's Zhongruan Concerto No. 2 (with Kseniia Vokhmianina on piano) was a revelation.

This Western-style concertante work had little in Chinese influences, resembling more a Spanish guitar concerto. That Su-Min was invited to perform its world premiere at the 2014 Hong Kong Arts Festival said much about her standing in the Chinese music world.

The final two works were jointly composed by the sisters, both of whom have a penchant for the popular and contemporary mainstream.

Mystic Forest was quiet and serene, a vivid night scene which turned to nascent dawn as the music picked up pace. Govin Tan's tabla set provided a steady beat and almost gave the work an Indian feel.

Taped sounds with echoes and distant chants accompanied the titular Traveller, a rousing fusion work which imagines a caravan making its way through foreign lands along the old Silk Road. Here, the fully subscribed house was witness to the three Tans in exuberant mood as the concert closed on an intoxicating high.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2016, with the headline 'Intoxicating performance from musician twins'. Print Edition | Subscribe