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A fine-sounding school orchestra

Published on May 1, 2014 12:07 PM

The music-making scene in Singapore now is such that almost every educational institution has an orchestra of its own, often allied with an established ensemble or prominent musical personality. Several years ago, the Anglo-Chinese School Orchestra had a joint concert with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra conducted by Shui Lan. On Wednesday at the School of the Arts' concert hall, the Raffles Symphony Orchestra, formed by string and wind players from Raffles Institution, partnered with Lim Yau and his Philharmonic Orchestra in a landmark concert.

Finnish composer Jean Sibelius's little gem Andante Festivo opened the event. Straight away, one could wax lyrical about the rich and homogeneous sound from the massed strings, no doubt aided by the venue's generously reverberant acoustics. The understated solemnity of the anthem was matched only by its sheer warmth. It is the favourite encore piece of Estonian conductor Neeme Jarvi, who recently conducted it with the SSO.

This performance by the young students triggered just about the same response for this listener.

The concert also saw the Singapore premiere of Polish composer Henryk Gorecki's Harpsichord Concerto, with leading collaborative keyboardist Shane Thio as soloist. The contrast with the first work could not be starker. This quasi-minimalist piece of 1980 highlighted persistent ostinatos from the strings, over which Thio's treadmill of scalic passages resounded as if woven into the rough-hewn homespun fabric of the music.

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