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Concert review: Singapore Chinese Orchestra previews its upcoming China tour

Published on May 11, 2014 11:25 AM

For the Singapore Chinese Orchestra to bring Chinese repertoire to the cities of Shanghai, Nanjing and Suzhou in its third concert tour of the People's Republic of China might be a case of carrying coals to Newcastle or selling sand to the Saudis.

Wisely the SCO and its music director Yeh Tsung have opted to showcase the genre of Nanyang music, which includes works by South-east Asian composers or music influenced by local styles and idioms.

Its two-hour-long pre-tour concert at the Singapore Conference Hall on Saturday was a sneak preview of highlights from its four concerts in China, beginning with locally based Chinese composer Law Wai Lun's The Voyage from Admiral Of The Seven Seas. This movement recounted imperial eunuch-explorer Zheng He's outgoing trips of discovery, with a metamorphosis from the pomp of the Ming dynasty court to the exotic and colourful strains of Indo-Malaysian music with the use of gamelan scales and native drumming.

Somewhat less evocative was Liu Xi Jin's Legend Of The Merlion, a three-movement gaohu concerto based on a uniquely Singaporean theme. Like that ersatz chimaera borne from a tourism executive's fertile imagination, the work juxtaposed Chinese melodies with Western compositional form. The slow passacaglia-like opening was contrasted with the tempest-tossed central movement, and the finale's duet of concertmaster Li Baoshun's gaohu and Xu Zhong's cello provided several memorable moments.

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