Concert review: Australian YouTube stars TwoSet Violin display excellent rapport

TwoSet Violin's Brett Yang (left) and Eddy Chen performing under the baton of Rodolfo Barraez and with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. PHOTO: NATHANIEL LIM

TwoSet Violin & SSO Mendelssohn Violin Concerto

TwoSet Violin – Brett Yang and Eddy Chen (violins), Singapore Symphony Orchestra – Rodolfo Barraez (conductor)

Victoria Concert Hall, Nov 16

Formed in 2014, TwoSet Violin has seen explosive growth of its fan base, which essentially resides on social media, away from traditional concert halls.

By 2020, Australians Brett Yang and Eddy Chen celebrated hitting two million YouTube subscribers by performing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, and by the following year, three million subscribers with the Sibelius Violin Concerto, both live-streamed from a studio to a worldwide audience.

This year, in commemoration of hitting almost four million subscribers, TwoSet went one step further by bringing this tradition to a concert hall with a symphony orchestra, with Yang performing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO).

Tickets for this concert were sold out in minutes. Anyone attending who was born before 1990 would have been in the single-digit minority, and male attendees were outnumbered by female fans by a wide margin.

There was much banter by TwoSet throughout the evening, and it was clearly an event (a “show”, as Yang aptly put it) that was targeted at TwoSet fans and the live-streaming audience, who numbered in the tens of thousands. YouTube views of this concert have hit 589,000 views so far and the SSO expects it to reach a million.

Nonetheless, this was also a proper classical concert, helmed by two well-trained classical violinists and backed by a top symphony orchestra.

Rodolfo Barraez made his second appearance as the newly-appointed associate conductor of the SSO, opening the concert with the Overture to The Marriage Of Figaro by Mozart. Barraez’s attention to detail and energy were clear to hear and see. It was heartening to see early signs that the SSO musicians will build an artistically rewarding relationship with Barraez in the coming years.

Yang and Chen made much of the two Stradivarius violins recently loaned to them, and Yang was the first to show his off, in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. In true TwoSet fashion, Barraez strode onto stage, and Yang and the SSO muddled through none other than the opening movement of the Bruch Violin Concerto, rather than the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto.

When he finally got down to business, Yang demonstrated that the concerto was well within his grasp. His former violin professor at the music conservatory might have asked for a little better intonation and shaping of the music, but Yang produced sweet violin tone, adroit fingerwork and a musical reading. Any shortcomings in his violin skills did not diminish the enjoyment of the work, which he took on with utmost earnestness.

The Bach Concerto For Two Violins that followed showed that Yang and Chen were very naturally musical, possessing good sensitivity and excellent timing. Of the two, Chen produced greater depth of sound on his Strad, and played with greater spontaneity.

The musical rapport was excellent, leading to a satisfying concerto performance for the evening. An encore by Chen of the closing movement of Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 2, better known as La Campanella, provided further proof that he is in good violin-playing form.

Was this a comedy show built around classical music? Or was it a classical concert, liberally dusted with comedic chatter? It really did not matter.

TwoSet Violin drew an enthusiastic over-600-strong crowd to the Victoria Concert Hall, who lapped up the music by two violinists and a fine orchestra. During the performances, the audience listened as intently and appreciatively as any classical audience this reviewer has witnessed, and the evening ended with smiles all round.

As the Aussie duo might just say, this sounds like fair dinkum.

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