Genial farewell

English violinist Tasmin Little comes on stage looking as if she has barely lost the first flush of youth. Yet, she has clocked up an astonishing 2,000 professional concerts in a career spanning 30 years.

Such is her dedication to her art that not only did she come to Singapore in the face of the coronavirus, but also within days of returning to playing, following an enforced eight-week silence nursing a damaged finger.

With a life led largely out of a suitcase, who can blame her for deciding that this was to be her final season as a touring violin virtuoso? The international concert stage will be the poorer for her absence.

Little is that rare phenomenon, a virtuoso who focuses wholly on the music, avoiding any show of hollow display or dramatic gesture.

Her concert was no exception. She came in an understated dress, planted her feet squarely on the stage and exuded such a sense of calm control that it was easy to overlook the concentrated musicality of her playing.

Perhaps, surprisingly, given her tireless championing of English music, she elected to bid her farewell to the Singapore stage with German composer Max Bruch's G Minor Violin Concerto, one of the most popular in the repertory.

Bruch himself got so fed up with hearing it, he allegedly claimed that he regretted having composed it. He surely would not have expressed such regrets had he heard Little deliver it with such unaffected fluency.

There was a real feeling that this was not a soloist accompanied by an orchestra, but a genuine partnership of equals among Little, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) and conductor Gerard Schwarz. There was no great drama or dripping pathos, merely an effortless geniality about it all.

That absence of drama was a recurring feature of this concert. Schwarz and the SSO opened the concert with four movements from Prokofiev's Romeo And Juliet. Big and brash, certainly, but curiously devoid of the kind of seat-gripping drama one usually experiences with this most dramatic of all orchestral showpieces.



    Tasmin Little (violin), Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Gerard Schwarz (conductor)

    Esplanade Concert Hall/Last Thursday

They ended the concert with Brahms' Third Symphony and, despite a suitably heroic opening, the overriding feeling was of geniality and unfussiness. Schwarz seemed more as if he were encouraging the orchestra to slide gracefully over soft grass than fight battles or make attention-grabbing statements.

Perhaps, in this time of unease, these two hours of calm geniality were just the tonic the audience needed.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2020, with the headline 'Genial farewell'. Subscribe