Lively performance by twin brothers

A full house packed the Victoria Concert Hall on a drizzly evening for a rare recital of two cellos by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra's principal cellist Ng Pei-Sian and his identical twin Pei-Jee.

The brothers were born in Sydney, shared the same teachers and schools in Australia and the United Kingdom, and won numerous prizes before their individual careers diverged.

Older brother Pei-Jee is co-principal at the London Philharmonic Orchestra and member of the Fournier Trio.

The siblings began with French baroque composer Jean-Baptiste Barriere's Sonata In G Major and their chemistry was immediate, as expected. Their voices blended as one, interchanging roles of playing melody and providing accompaniment as freely as breathing air. Although the work was brief, with a short central aria and swift finale with rapidly repeated notes, their breezy way with the music served as the perfect prelude.

Slightly more complex was Handel's Trio Sonata In G Minor, with its alternating slow and fast four-movement form. With Shane Thio on harpsichord, their interplay with give-and-take in the busy counterpoint of the fast movements was exemplary, with a show of deeper emotions in the slower preceding movements.



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On either side of Handel were two unaccompanied Cello Suites by J.S. Bach. The programme booklet did not indicate who was to perform which work and that was perhaps deliberate. It turned out that Pei-Sian - the slightly more flamboyant of the two - was assigned the Second Suite In D Minor, opening with darker and more elegiac tones. Pei-Jee played the cheerier and more familiar Third Suite In C Major.

There was little to separate the two cellists, who brought out gorgeous sonorities from their instruments besides displaying perfect articulation in the fast dance movements. Like a mirror image, the sarabandes of both suites were hewn with burnished and deeply breathed strokes. Pei-Sian had Menuets and his brother had Bourrees to "dance" to, but both finished off with fast rhythmic Gigues which were breathtaking to say the least.

The final piece was a departure from the baroque, but nonetheless required as razor-sharp reflexes and tricky coordination as the earlier works.

Upping the ante was Uzbek-Australian composer Elena Kats- Chernin's Phoenix Story, composed for the duo's 2007 concert tour of the Australian continent.

The dirge-like first movement Tears From Above opened with drone-like ostinatos from Pei-Jee over which Pei-Sian's melody unfolded with no little lyricism. The two later switched roles and earlier contemplation gave way to an everrising emotional intensity. The fast second movement, Courting The Dragon, was a fire-breathing and boisterous dance that worked its way to a thrilling end.

Having had little or no time to practise a duo encore, it was left for Pei-Sian to offer Bach's Prelude In G while his brother gamely watched on. No matter, the audience was loud and vociferous in its ovation.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 07, 2017, with the headline 'Lively performance by twin brothers'. Print Edition | Subscribe