Strong end to watery start

Pavlo Beznosiuk, the English violinist and passionate advocate of the music of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, has been in Singapore directing a series of concerts themed around water.

The alliterative title mentioned waves and winds as well, but these only occasionally washed into the programme, although they featured visually in an attractive programme booklet.

The tide of attendance ebbed very low, especially on Friday. A skim through the programmes might have created the impression that there really was not much to choose between the concerts.

But these three performances could hardly have been more different. This was not down to the music or even Beznosiuk's wonderfully calm and laid-back approach - although he did become increasingly loquacious over the three days; it was due to the changes of personnel in the higher orchestral strings.

The winds and double basses seemed to be loving every moment of it. Not so the others who, last Friday, turned up grim-faced and sour, looking as if they begrudged every second spent on stage and sounding utterly waterlogged.

Rebel's enormously entertaining ballet describing The Elements came across as soggy and damp, while Telemann's concerto depicting the mating of frogs (which should get anyone's eyes popping) tickled the funny bone only because of Beznosiuk's wryly sardonic interventions.



    Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Pavlo Beznosiuk (violin and director)

    Victoria Concert Hall/Last Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Saturday's team was a wholly different crew. Perhaps fired by news of national swimmer Joseph Schooling's Olympic gold in Rio, they threw themselves into the programme with relish, dedicating it to the sportsman.

The highlight of this concert was the fascinating Concerto For Four Violins by the largely forgotten Italian composer Giuseppe Valentini. Beznosiuk inspired Team SSO - Karen Tan, Margit Saur and Chikako Sasaki - to produce some scintillatingly agile playing, while the four violinists goaded themselves into ever greater feats of technical bravado.

The orchestra was the largest and visibly happiest on Sunday. Beznosiuk had a ball, taking time out to talk informally to the audience and even inserting into Vivaldi's already extraordinary Concerto In D RV562 such an extraordinary cadenza (much of it based on one of Bach's favourite Vivaldi pieces) that the audience seemed in danger of being inundated by his gushing virtuosity.

Sunday's programme began with Matthew Locke's vividly descriptive incidental music to a stage presentation of The Tempest and ended with a rollicking account of movements from the most famous water music of them all - the Water Music suites Handel wrote for the Thames flotilla assembled in 1717 by King George I.

A series of concerts which began as a damp squib ended in cascades of triumphant glory.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2016, with the headline 'Strong end to watery start'. Print Edition | Subscribe