When Schumann insulted his critics...

(From left) Violinist Loh Jun Hong and pianist Abigail Sin will perform with cellist Qin Li-Wei in their More Than Music concert series.
(From left) Violinist Loh Jun Hong and pianist Abigail Sin will perform with cellist Qin Li-Wei in their More Than Music concert series. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF LOH JUN HONG, ABIGAIL SIN

Hear horrible histories about composers and enjoy their lovely music by former child prodigies Loh Jun Hong and Abigail Sin

In the latest edition of their More Than Music concert series, pianist Abigail Sin and violinist Loh Jun Hong break down classical compositions for audiences and share horrible histories about the composers in the programme - did you know Schumann insulted his critics in public?

Dreaming Out Loud will be held at the Esplanade Recital Studio on June 13 and 14 and features music from Schubert, Beethoven and Brahms. It is the 16th concert programmed by the two musicians since 2013 to build an audience for classical music in Singapore and demystify the art form.

The concerts usually attract about 200 listeners each time. Previous editions have included a wine reception or having the musicians act as a "live jukebox", responding to requests from a pre-determined programme.

Perhaps the real draw for listeners, including young children, is the enthusiastic way in which Sin and Loh share their love of music and explain the themes and motifs.

Sin, 27, says: "It's not just, 'This is a piece by Beethoven written in this year.' We want to create a frame for people to listen to the music. We give them specific ideas and concepts to latch on to, for example, 'Beethoven was an improviser, you give him a theme and he would construct a piece with very simple harmonies, shockingly simple. You can hear him figuring it out as he plays.'

"When people hear this, they are excited. This is a specific way into the music."

Or when Loh describes Brahms' Piano Trio In B Major as having "calm passion, restrained yearning and quiet intensity", the audience is led to think about whether they hear what the musicians do.

Sin adds: "It makes them think, 'Do I find this beautiful? Do I get what Abigail or Jun Hong is talking about?'"

She and Loh, 29, were among the youngest to enter the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory at the National University of Singapore - Loh at age 15 and Sin at age 14.

  • BOOK IT /DREAMING OUT LOUD

  • WHERE: Esplanade Recital Studio, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: June 13 and 14, 7.30pm

    ADMISSION: $30, $20 (concession) from dreamingoutloud.peatix.com

They have built reputations as soloists and have also worked with other musical groups, but More Than Music is their pet project and longest-running collaboration.

Joining them at this concert is cellist Qin Li-Wei, associate professor in the strings department of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory and one of their "musical idols".

Playing with him is a dream come true for both musicians. Loh recalls the first time he rehearsed with Qin as a student: "I was so engrossed in his playing that I even missed my entries sometimes."

So is that why the concert is titled Dreaming Out Loud?

Sin laughs. "I was inspired by the idea that attending a concert is like sharing a dream. We're willing to suspend reality and be transported by the music into a different world, all of us momentarily united by the magic of a composer's vision brought to life in sound.

"It's ludicrous, don't you think, that at any classical concert, 200 people stop what they are doing and buy into this dream world?"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2019, with the headline 'When Schumann insulted his critics...'. Print Edition | Subscribe