Expression of musical love

Violinist Renaud Capucon was concerto soloist with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra last week.
Violinist Renaud Capucon was concerto soloist with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra last week.PHOTO: ST FILE



Renaud Capucon (violin) and Nicholas Angelich (piano), Singapore Symphony Orchestra members, Shui Lan (conductor)

Victoria Concert Hall/ Sunday

Violinist Renaud Capucon was concerto soloist with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) last week and pianist Nicholas Angelich is the soloist later this week.

Since their visits overlapped, it made good sense for them to share the stage for this weekend's chamber concert.

Top-notch concerto soloists do not necessarily make for top-notch chamber players, and their performance of the Brahms Second Violin Sonata lacked that instinctive understanding of each other's presence which makes for outstanding chamber playing.

They were not so much pulling in different directions as dipping their oars in the lush waters of the Brahms Sonata with different degrees of intensity.

Nevertheless, they shared a view of the work which easily overcame the slight differences in their approaches.

Deeply amorous and dripping with affection, the three movements unfolded extremely leisurely, with even the short-lived bursts of energy in the second one coming across as calm and unhurried.

This was an expression of the most sincere and profound musical love, and it was a joy to behold.

Just 40 years separated the two works in this concert. But what 40 years they were.

The carnage of World War I changed forever the elegant, opulent Vienna of Brahms' day, and even as Berg's Kammerkonzert was being premiered in the same city, Vienna was facing an even more terrible threat. On top of that, jazz had burst on the scene. No wonder Berg's music is so full of stressful and nervous energy.

Angelich produced growling menace from the resonant bass of the VCH piano in the first movement, while Capucon delivered his lyrical passages in the second so that they seemed tinged not so much with nostalgia, as with thinly veiled spite. Occasional echoes of Viennese waltzes assumed a sarcastic edge and took on a distinctly jazzy feel as these two players gave vent to some pretty complex musical feelings.

It was, however, the wind players of the SSO who turned this into such a potently dramatic performance. Their playing was matchless, with a hugely impressive level of dynamic control ensuring that the performance was never lacking in vividly colourful effects.

Set up on stage as if they were opposing - and grossly mismatched - armies, the 13 wind players and the two soloists seemed to be in a stand-off with only the diminutive figure of Shui Lan keeping them apart. But he exerted a powerful presence, perfectly placing the frequent bursts of storm and stress and never allowing the moments of introspective reflection to undermine the work's driving momentum.

This was a shared experience of anguish and energy, which Shui controlled superbly, balancing his various musical forces like a true and instinctive military tactician.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2017, with the headline 'Expression of musical love'. Print Edition | Subscribe