Harp mastery

Welsh harpist Catrin Finch played in Singapore as part of HarpFest V on Sunday.
Welsh harpist Catrin Finch played in Singapore as part of HarpFest V on Sunday. PHOTO: CATRIN FINCH



Laura Peh, harp recital

Play Den, The Arts House



Catrin Finch, harp recital

University Cultural Centre Theatre


It was an uncanny happenstance that a promising young Singaporean harpist and one of the world's most renowned harpists held their recitals on the same day of the year. Thankfully, several hours separated the events so one could attend both.

Laura Peh, recently graduated from London's Royal College of Music, involved several other young Singaporean artists in her recital.

Dancers Hoi Siu Yan and Koo Hong Kei shared the stage in Marcel Tournier's Dance Of Russian Peasants from his Images Suite No. 4. Their slender forms and graceful movements in Renee Daphne Leong's choreography mirrored Peh's gentle and cultivated playing.

Violinist Wilford Goh joined Peh in Saint-Saens' Fantaisie Op. 124 and Arvo Part's Mirror In The Mirror, the last a haunting minimalist number accompanied by a short film by Lee Min-Wei that was a quiet celebration of all things Singaporean in the nation's Golden Jubilee year. Scenes of daily life provided a familiar and loving backdrop to the sensitive musicmaking.

Peh also performed short character pieces by Tchaikovsky and Tan Dun.

If the young harpist is at the opening chapter of her musical career, Welsh harpist Catrin Finch has already written several volumes. Her recital was the climax of HarpFest V, organised by the indefatigable local harp entrepreneur Katryna Tan.

Finch has enough virtuosity, personality and wit to sustain an entire concert on her own.

The first half was a mini-tour of the European nations, beginning with English harp-composer Elias Parish Alvars' scintillating Introduction, Cadenza and Rondo. French elegance in Faure's A Chatelaine In Her Tower was contrasted with the German austerity of Hindemith's Sonata. Prokofiev's wry little Prelude led to a spectacular transcription of Bedrich Smetana's symphonic poem Die Moldau, a showpiece which brought out Finch's mastery of orchestral textures on a single instrument.

Her second half was Welsh, tinged with a Latin accent. William Mathias' Santa Fe Suite was atmospheric in its first two movements, Landscape and Nocturne, before breaking out in the frenetic Sun Dance.

John Thomas, royal harpist to Queen Victoria, was represented by a heartfelt folksong, while Finch, herself once royal harpist to Prince Charles, lit up her original composition Aurora with sequences of shimmering glissandi.

Piazzolla's infectious Libertango was vociferously received by a trigger-happy audience that could not wait to applaud every variation of Felix Godefroid's Carnival Of Venice, which got increasingly showy as the work progressed.

For her two encores, Finch wheeled in an amplified harp on which she performed another Welsh folksong and her own Clear Skies, with an ear-teasing resonance.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2015, with the headline 'Harp mastery'. Print Edition | Subscribe