Philharmonic Youth Winds
Esplanade Concert Hall/Tuesday
Just two days after The Philharmonic Winds' concert of light songs from the musicals, its junior counterpart, the Philharmonic Youth Winds, presented a programme of serious classics. This was not a case of friendly rivalry but rather, a show of ambition, that the young ones could very well stand on their own.
The first half, led by guest conductor Chan Tze Law, opened with Donald Hunsberger's transcription of J.S. Bach's Toccata & Fugue In D Minor. Its arresting beginning was spot on cue and intonation, and there was no timidity in the blazing entries of the winds and brass. Despite the reverberant acoustics and long-held pedal points, the playing was clear and articulate, best typified in the complex fugue taken at a blistering pace.
Singapore Symphony Orchestra's principal tuba player Hidehiro Fujita was soloist in the fiendishly tricky Bass Tuba Concerto of Vaughan Williams.
How the lowest pitched and bulkiest of all blown instruments was made to sound this nimble was testament to his virtuosity. In the central Romance, he made the instrument sing and in the folk danceinspired finale, acrobatics were again on show in the cadenza before an emphatic but quick flourish to end.
His encores included a comedy-filled set of variations on The Blue Bells Of Scotland, which traversed the complete range of the tuba and a solo improvisation on the Christmas song which begins with I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus.
The Vocal Associates Festival Chorus joined in for Masato Sato's arrangement of Ravel's Daphnis And Chloe Ballet Suite No 2. Anyone who doubts that a wind band could engage its quiet, rustling evocation of dawn, filled with bird songs, will be pleasantly surprised. The flute solos were excellent, and the playing of the ensemble sensitive to nuances and shades building up to the orgiastic Danse Generale.
One would have hoped for an even larger choir to fill the gallery section. Good as the voices were, they were no match in volume generated by the instrumentalists. This was apparent in the Triumphal March from Verdi's Aida, which was boosted by children's voices. Here, the trumpet section held sway in the victorious procession of General Radames.
The second half, conducted by music director Adrian Chiang, climaxed in Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture arranged by Yoshihiro Kimura. The chorus, trained by Khor Ai Ming, had more than a fighting chance in the a cappella opening God Preserve Thy People sung in Russian. They did so with gusto and in the folksong At The Gate, as the battle of Borodino escalated.
This was an impressive performance that raised the roof when the French La Marseillaise and Russian anthem God Save The Tsar clashed amid the din of cannon shots and tolling bells.
Ending the concert on a festive note was an audience sing-along, with hymns including Joy To The World, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and O Come All Ye Faithful filling the air.