Steely showing from bad boys of classical music

Pairing of T'ang Quartet and Melvyn Tan brings forth a performance of verve

From far left: Ng Yu-Ying, Ang Chek Meng, Leslie Tan and Lionel Tan of T'ang Quartet, and Melvyn Tan (in the background) put on an energetic performance.
From left: Ng Yu-Ying, Ang Chek Meng, Leslie Tan and Lionel Tan of T'ang Quartet, and Melvyn Tan (in the background) put on an energetic performance.PHOTO: ALOYSIUS LIM


T'ANG QUARTET PRESENTS GUTS & STEEL/ Ng Yu-Ying, violin, Ang Chek Meng, violin, Lionel Tan, viola, Leslie Tan, cello, Melvyn Tan, fortepiano/piano

Victoria Concert Hall/Wednesday

In the midst of SG50 celebrations, it is fitting that local acts feature prominently in the 38th edition of the Singapore International Festival of Arts.

The T'ang Quartet, known for their eclectic programming as well as fashionable image, have been Singapore's premier chamber group for two decades. They have grown considerably since their early days of being the bad boys of classical music, and their partnership with pianist Melvyn Tan showed them to be still at the top of their craft.

Having made his mark internationally on the fortepiano, it was no surprise to see Tan opt for the period instrument in Mozart's Piano Quartet No. 1 In G Minor K478 and Boccherini's Piano Quintet In C Major No. 6 Op. 57.

Paired with Ang, Lionel Tan and Leslie Tan on the Mozart quartet, the pianist worked miracles on the keyboard. Despite the fortepiano's detached qualities and limited dynamic range, Melvyn Tan coaxed an elegant legato worth many times the price of admission.

With the string instruments utilising gut strings instead of modern steel, one would be forgiven for fearing the performance would be purely academic.

It was anything but boring, with the trio perfectly balancing classical idioms with an energetic showing that brought out the dramatic minor movement with aplomb. The naivete and playfulness of the G major 3rd movement were delivered with infectious glee.


  • WHERE: School of the Arts Studio Theatre, 1 Zubir Said Drive

    WHEN: Sept 12, 8pm

    TICKETS: $50 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to


  • WHERE: School of the Arts Concert Hall

    WHEN: Sept 19, 8pm

    TICKETS: $25, $35, $50 from Sistic


Violinist Ng Yu-Ying joined in for Boccherini's Piano Quintet, a delightful work that captured early classical sensibility.

The balance showed by the musicians allowed each line to be heard pristinely, with the "trotting" character of the music vividly portrayed by the lower strings, including a feverishly virtuosic passage in which cellist Leslie Tan exhibited technical bravura.

Returning to modern instruments for Dvorak's Piano Quintet In A Major Op. 81, it was hair-raising stuff in the second half of the concert. The heartrending song of the opening movement was coloured brilliantly, which served to highlight the nostalgia of the "Dumka" second movement.

Although the alternating major and minor modes of the closing movements created an emotionally ambiguous state, the swirling colours and joyous dance of the finale swept the audience into a frenzy.

The T'ang Quartet with Tan delivered on all fronts. Such a high calibre of performance from local musicians was perhaps unimaginable at the dawn of our independence, but they now stand tall among the giants of the classical music world.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2015, with the headline 'Steely showing from bad boys of classical music'. Print Edition | Subscribe