REVIEW / CONCERT
MENDELSSOHN VIOLIN CONCERTO BRAHMS SYMPHONIES
Singapore Symphony Orchestra/
This was one of those unusual concerts which featured two concertos performed by two soloists.
First was the Singapore Symphony Orchestra's (SSO) principal trumpeter Jon Paul Dante in Johann Hummel's popular Trumpet Concerto In E Flat Major.
Hummel was Mozart's student who once boarded in his household and his piece sounded like the trumpet concerto Mozart never wrote.
Its long orchestral tutti and martial air recalled Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 22 (also in E flat major), before Dante's confident entry established this as an extrovert showpiece.
In the slow movement, where his long lines looked ahead to the operatic art of bel canto, the gentle string accompaniment was right out of the "Elvira Madigan" movement from Piano Concerto No. 21.
The finale was where Hummel surpassed his master and Dante handled its acrobatic leaps and tricky repeated notes with glee. That infectious derring-do was exactly what trumpeters (and brass players in general) thrive on and the effort was greeted with noisy applause.
The same reception was later extended to Japanese violinist Daishin Kashimoto, first concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic, whose performance of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto In E Minor was just as pleasing. The natural fluidity of his technique meant that all the solo's twists and turns were more than comfortably negotiated.
Rich in melodic interest, the songs without words within its three movements were wonderfully exploited, but Kashimoto was not one to milk them purely for sentimentality's sake.
There was some getting used to to his slightly acidic tone, but this did little to detract from the overall picture, which also drew vociferous applause.
Among Johannes Brahms' four symphonies, the Fourth Symphony In E Minor (Op. 98) is often considered his greatest.
Conducting from memory, SSO music director Shui Lan led a performance that was strong in objectivity, with swooning emotion kept at arm's length.
The opening, formed by a series of seemingly bare two-note phrases, could not have sounded less opulent. That was the bedrock on which an ultimately strong and convincing reading was built.
From simplicity came origins of complexity and the build-up to the first movement's passionate climax was a gradual, but inexorable progress worth following. Similarly, the slow movement's droll unison opening gave way to fine woodwind playing, gratefully reciprocated by the brass and gorgeous strings to scale yet more spiritual highs.
The rambunctious third movement was thrilling in its unfettered release of adrenaline, affirmed by the humble and rarely used triangle's ringing endorsement.
The symphony's crowning achievement was its Passacaglia finale, where Brahms peered into the future by glorifying the past.
Shui's vision of its eight-bar introduction and 32 ensuing short variations was gripping. And if there were a defining moment, it was Jin Ta's desolate flute solo, comforted by a trio of trombones, followed by the entire brass as a giant chorale.