From requiem to heady romp

CONCERT

METAMORPHOSEN AND MOZART WITH HANS GRAF

Singapore Symphony Orchestra

Last Friday, Sistic Live

One unforeseen consequence of the pandemic has been the proliferation of chamber music performances. The latest Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) concerts have followed this trend, smartly juxtaposing classical composers with those from the 20th century.

Under chief conductor Hans Graf's direction, Mozart became comfortable bedfellows with German composer Richard Strauss in a digital programme that contrasted grief and mourning with verve and jollity.

Strauss' Metamorphosen (1945) is a late autumnal work for 23 string musicians, composed in the wake of World War II when Germany had been defeated and its cities laid to waste by Allied bombing.

The SSO strings were, as usual, sumptuously sonorous without trivialising the requiem they were delivering. Graf expertly reined in the pacing of the narrative, with tempos which neither dragged nor became a caricature of the funereal message.

He neatly layered varied textures, with solos by concertmaster Kong Zhao Hui emerging like a beacon through a mist of strings.

The music gradually built up to a cathartic climax, before a quote from Funeral March from Beethoven's Eroica Symphony near the end reminded listeners that this work marked a definitive end to a sorry epoch in history.

This was followed by Mozart's Serenade In B Flat Major (K.361), also called the Gran Partita, scored for 12 winds and double bass.

Its seven movements spelt pure delight from start to finish, with pinpoint playing and nimble articulation throughout.

  • METAMORPHOSEN AND MOZART WITH HANS GRAF

    WHERE Sistic Live.

    WHEN Available until Nov 20, 8pm.

    ADMISSION Pay-as-you-wish, $10, $20, $30, $50 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

    INFO sso.org.sg

The slow Adagio third movement reminded one of a memorable scene from the 1984 movie Amadeus, reliving Italian composer Antonio Salieri's vivid description of the oboe's sublime entry: "A single note, hanging there, unwavering..."

To this end, principal oboist Rachel Walker's pristine solo seemed to perfectly embody Mozart's spirituality and divinely ordained gifts.

The jaunty Menuetto contrasted well with the stately Romance and its animated central section.

All was brought to bear in the fast and furious Rondo finale, a heady romp towards a happy close.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2020, with the headline 'From requiem to heady romp'. Print Edition | Subscribe