Concert review: Lights, candles, action

Vocalise String Quartet (from left) first violinist Jocelyn Ng, second violinist Lester Kong, violist Andrew Fung and cellist Peh Xiang Hong.
Vocalise String Quartet (from left) first violinist Jocelyn Ng, second violinist Lester Kong, violist Andrew Fung and cellist Peh Xiang Hong.PHOTO: ALOYSIUS LIM



Victoria Concert Hall, Monday (March 22)

After months of unrelenting online advertising, the fever has arrived in Singapore.

One is not referring to some variant Covid-19 strain but the much-publicised Candlelight Concerts, presented by event organiser Fever, that have captured the imagination of some 70 cities around the world.

But are these events for real and do they live up to the hype?

This concert, featuring Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons, began at the later-than-usual hour of 9pm. That gave the many young people and courting couples attending time to finish their dinner and make their way to a concert hall illuminated by hundreds of electronic smokeless candles placed onstage and along the aisles.

The gimmick certainly made for an evocative and romantic setting, but what about the music?

For starters, the Four Seasons are the four most popular and often performed violin concertos among the Italian composer's 500 or so concertos. They are originally scored for a chamber-sized group of strings and harpsichord continuo. What was heard this evening was instead adapted for just a string quartet.

Doing the honours was Vocalise String Quartet, freelancers who perform at weddings, corporate events and diplomatic functions. It was thus unsurprising that the sonority generated was not particularly voluminous, but adequate to reach the hall's circle seats.

A performance of the Seasons stands or falls on the strength of the violin soloist, and on this evening, first violinist Jocelyn Ng more than delivered the goods.

She exhibited a solid, robust tone and good intonation and was unfazed by the pyrotechnics called for in the concertos' fast outer movements.

Vivaldi, nicknamed The Red Priest, was himself a violin virtuoso who brought a host of innovative mimicking effects into his score. The bird calls of Spring, pelting rain of Summer, barking dogs on a hunt in Autumn, and the reassuring warmth of a fireplace in Winter - Ng did them all, and some.

The 45 minutes of Vivaldi passed like a flash. Fillers for the concert's full hour included the first and most familiar movement of Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, an apt serenade for the evening, and to close, Gerardo Matos Rodriguez's rocking tango La Cumparsita.

As an entry point to classical music, first-timers could have done worse, but one hopes they will take the next step by attending concerts by ensembles such as re:Mix, re:Sound and Red Dot Baroque, who need no candlelight for their music to shine.