Spirited, alluring display

REVIEW / CONCERT

SONGS OF TRAVEL

More Than Music - Abigail Sin (piano), Loh Jun Hong (violin), Kevin Loh (guitar)

Esplanade Recital Studio/Last Friday

Pianist Abigail Sin has made the music of Charles Griffes something of a personal crusade.

For the uninitiated, Griffes was a short-lived American composer in the early years of the 20th century who was, by and large, despised by his compatriots and ignored by the rest of the world.

Sin's crusading zeal surfaced in this concert with her performance of Griffes' Three Tone Pictures.

It was a deeply sympathetic performance showing an acute insight into the music's remote sound- world and revealing it through a ravishing piano tone, which successfully married a subtle wash of sound with careful articulation of every tiny detail of the music's intricate textures. If anyone is going to convince the world that Griffes is a composer worth listening to, that person is Sin.

In the normal course of events, this would have been the absolute highlight of this concert. However, it was rubbing shoulders with other exceptional performances in what, all told, was an immensely satisfying musical evening.

With the concert opener - Falla's Danse Espagnole arranged for guitar and violin - Kevin Loh and Loh Jun Hong made it plain that they were musicians at the very peak of their game.

Kevin Loh holds his guitar almost vertically and produces a marvellously uncluttered tone, which quite disguises the sheer virtuosity of his playing. This was vividly demonstrated in the Usher-Waltz by Nikita Koshkin, a decidedly uneven piece, but one in which Loh was able to create moments of excitement made all the more electrifying by his complete absence of meaningless mannerism or gratuitous gesture.

For his part, Loh Jun Hong has an intense emotional involvement in his playing, which never fails to convey his eager desire to communicate the music. There were moments in Kreisler's Tambourin Chinois when, pyrotechnics apart, he produced an alluring beauty of tone, although with the Red Violin Chaconne by John Corigliano, he was so eager to deliver the drama that tone quality rather went overboard.

In usual More Than Music style, the three players took turns to precede each piece with an easy-to- follow, naturally delivered and well- prepared verbal introduction. Sometimes they offered up a few musical examples, all with the intention of giving the audience a clear sense of what the composer - or, more accurately, they themselves - saw as the stories behind the music.

This was a welcome touch and was clearly much appreciated by the audience.

In truth, though, their playing had such infectious enthusiasm, open- hearted spirit and clarity of intention that none of them needed to open their mouths once - the concertgoers could tell from their playing what the music was all about.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2016, with the headline 'Spirited, alluring display'. Print Edition | Subscribe