Oldies in strings



re:mix with Foo Say Ming (violin)

Victoria Concert Hall/ Sunday

One has to be of a certain age to fully appreciate music performed by the crack local string group re:mix led by violinist-conductor Foo Say Ming. Purveyors of nostalgia non pareil, re:mix thrives on the music which baby-boomers and their parents grew up with.

Its latest concert takes its title from two Wong Kar Wai films, Days Of Being Wild and In The Mood For Love. Within these are oldies which have been seared into the memories of many and good tunes do not fade easily.

The concert was turned upon its head with Hollywood film composer Franz Waxman's Carmen Fantasy, a work usually performed at the end of concerts. Bizet's opera Carmen would have made a splendid movie and soloist Foo made the showpiece come alive with its hit arias, the Habanera, Seguidilla and Bohemian Dance.

Foo's virtuosity is of a fearless kind, surmounting thorny passages and cadenzas with swashbuckling abandon while commanding his string players with frequent glances and bodily feints. The main body of strings responded with a svelte, gorgeous tone and an unanimity of attack. In a way, this was a tribute to the great Jascha Heifetz, teacher of Foo's teacher Pierre Amoyal.

The next six short pieces could have easily been a game of Guess The Melody, so familiar to the ear that their titles and composers are often forgotten. Cultural Medallion recipient Kelly Tang was responsible for four arrangements, including Guglielmi's Cherry Pink Apple Blossom White, Menendez's Aquellos Ojos Verdes, Martohartono's Bengawan Solo and Evans/ Livingston's Mona Lisa. The technique of cascading strings, patented and perfected by Mantovani and his Orchestra, was put to good use, as sustained notes and echoes provide a truly haunting effect.

Derek Lim's arrangement of Li Qinguang's Ye Lai Xiang was simple yet effective, one where Foo's violin sang above perfumed string harmonies. This was contrasted by the plaintive tune of Umebayashi's Yumeji's Theme accompanied by a gentle waltz rhythm.

The longest work of the 75-minute-long concert was the world premiere of British composer Dominic Sargent's Sonata Latino, a five-movement string serenade using Spanish and Latin American hit songs dressed in the style of works by Tchaikovsky, Elgar, Britten and others.

Commissioned by re:mix, its old- meets-new, East-meets-West stance truly embodied the ensemble's spirit.

The first movement was an allegro in sonata form based on Augustin Lara's Solamente Una Vez, while the slow movement Notturno included a fugue on Osvaldo Farres' Quizas, Quizas, Quizas, popularised by Nat King Cole. The Barcarolle's rocking rhythm mashed up Besame Mucho with Perfidio, while the Tango dwelled sultrily on Antonio Carlos Jobim's Desafinado. The finale was an energetic Conga and Lambada in perpetual motion, but wittily taking some measures off the corresponding movement of Bartok's Concerto For Orchestra.

A well-filled Victoria Concert Hall erupted in loud applause and was rewarded with three encores, Tang's by now notorious "pizzicato polka" arrangement of Tian Mi Mi (by way of Danny Elfman's The Simpsons Theme), Jakob Gade's Tango Jalousie and another welcome airing of Ye Lai Xiang.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2015, with the headline 'Oldies in strings'. Print Edition | Subscribe