Duo's captivating music served with wine

Loh Jun Hong and Abigail Sin, founders of More Than Music.
Loh Jun Hong and Abigail Sin, founders of More Than Music.PHOTO: ZACH TAN



Abigail Sin (piano), Loh Jun Hong (violin)

Blue Room, The Arts House

Last Friday

For once, the piano/violin duo of Abigail Sin and Loh Jun Hong lived up to the promise of the title of their hugely attractive chamber series. They gave us More Than Music.

They gave us wine too. Concertgoers were issued with a glass which was filled, courtesy of a partnership with the Australian wine label Lalaland, with a different wine for each of the recital's two halves and then two additional wines to go with the post-concert reception and encores.

There was potential for disruption, but at last Friday's concert (it was repeated last Saturday), just one empty glass was knocked over during the performance, one filled glass was spilled during the post-recital reception and, if any glass was broken, the sound never reached my ears.

In short, the wine, as intended, served only to enhance the concert experience.

Talks by performers and wine representatives gave embarrassingly contrived rationales behind the pairing of wine to repertory, the worst being a cringe-worthy link between Saint-Saens' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso and a crisp Vermentino on the grounds that since a French composer used Spanish rhythms in his music, an Australian winemaker using Italian grape varietals was the obvious partner.

But such concocted connections were redundant. It was clear that, with a glass in hand irrespective of the convoluted symbolism of its contents, the audience was soon in a sufficiently mellow mood to enjoy a programme which, for many, might otherwise have seemed somewhat esoteric.

Ravel's elusive Sonata was helped along by a crisp white, while a buoyant red alleviated the often cloying textures of the Richard Strauss Sonata. There was no doubt that this predominantly French programme was well served by the addition of Australian wines.

And what of the playing?

There were imperfections - missed notes from the violin, smudged ones on the piano - but the overriding thing about Sin and Loh was their amazing interpretative rapport. They oozed affection and enthusiasm in their playing and shared a real desire to communicate their take on the music - often explaining it in simple, layman's language (a skill many wine specialists have yet to master). And they so obviously felt the music as one that, technical flaws apart, their performances were never anything but utterly captivating.

A highlight was the first movement of the Faure Sonata, which perfectly caught the essential yearning of the music with its waves of barely restrained passion.

Post-recital chat over wine (with encores going on in the background) found many bemoaning the fact that only the first movements of sonatas were played. The consensus seemed to be that a little more music would not have gone amiss. It might have been a case of In Vino Veritas, but no performer could want a better audience response.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2018, with the headline 'Duo's captivating music served with wine'. Print Edition | Subscribe