Rousing start to the new year

If there is a local musical tradition worth preserving, that might be The Philharmonic Orchestra's annual New Year's Eve Concert, now in its fifth edition.

Although that may seem a short span of time compared with the Vienna Philharmonic's New Year's Day Concert, it has nevertheless started a trend of sorts.

The Philharmonic Orchestra's music director, Lim Yau, has been the mainstay of this series, but this year, he shared conducting responsibilities with composer-conductor Terrence Wong. Lim led the opener, Otto Nicolai's Overture To The Merry Wives Of Windsor, which began with refined string sound in its introduction, before erupting to ebullient life in its allegro section of Mendelssohnian lightness.

Wong then took over the baton for Johann Strauss Junior's Pizzicato Polka, which was accompanied by a short film of orchestra members recounting their favourite moments of last year. His steady guiding hand also brought charm to the familiar Waltz from Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty, which was followed by two movements from Grieg's Peer Gynt.



    The Philharmonic Orchestra

    School of the Arts Concert Hall


Flautist Paul Huang's solo was fluid and mellifluous in the atmospheric Morning Mood, while the orchestra churned out an exciting crescendo for Hall Of The Mountain King, which had bassoonist Goh Mok Cheong in suitably belligerent mood.

With less music performed this year, master of ceremonies William Ledbetter was compelled to stir up the proceedings, padding up the time with anecdotes and poetry reading, besides priming the usually sedate Singaporean audience to bellow out a robust "Happy New Year!" at the stroke of midnight. Unfortunately, when the time came, he had all but forgotten that cue.

The orchestra performed a couple of rarities, including The Jolly Village Smiths with its striking anvils by Julius Fucik, the Czech composer better known for his Entry Of The Gladiators.

The other was David Lovrien's Minor Alterations, a witty medley with Christmas songs such as Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, Good King Wenceslas and Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer performed in minor keys. It closed with a hilarious mash-up of Tchaikovsky's Trepak from Nutcracker with Deck The Halls.

As with last year's concert, there were several minutes of sobriety to reflect on well-known people who died last year, including blues legend B.B. King and former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

The aptly moving accompanying music was Estonian composer Arvo Part's Cantus In Memoriam Benjamin Britten, which consisted of a series of descending scales built on a cantus firmus in A minor.

The countdown to this year was ushered in by Respighi's Pines Of The Appian Way, representing the unrelenting march of time and Roman legions, conducted by Lim.

Having missed the chance for a communal wishing of new year greetings, the audience had a cheerful clap-along to Johann Strauss Senior's Radetzky March.

An eventful year of great music beckons.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2016, with the headline 'Rousing start to the new year'. Print Edition | Subscribe