REVIEW / CONCERT
Singapore Violin Festival
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concert Hall/Tuesday
There are too few weeks in a year, such that the 2nd Singapore Violin Festival had to be held at the same time as the 24th Singapore International Piano Festival (from June 1 to 4).
However, the violin festival (from May 29 to June 6) was the longer event and there was no clash for its well-attended final gala concert.
Instead of performances from the festival's star-studded teaching faculty, the audience witnessed a stunning line-up of young violinists.
The famous French violinistpedagogue Pierre Amoyal, a faculty member, emphasised that virtuosity for its own sake was not the raison d'etre of the festival, but rather, the kind of all-rounded musicianship imparted by his own master, the great Jascha Heifetz.
The evening's first performance was ear- and eye-opening. It was surprising to see the diminutive Chloe Chua from Singapore craft the voluminous sound and super-accurate double-stopping in Wieniawski's unaccompanied Etude-Caprice (Op. 18 No. 2). Her natural and unforced technique, with a lack of self-consciousness, was impressive.
In Saint-Saens' Rondo Capriccioso with Nurie Chung (South Korea), a thoughtfully phrased introduction led to a final flourish of fireworks. His compatriot Na Kyung Kang gave a fully nuanced reading of Hungarian Jeno Hubay's Carmen Fantasy, a darker and more episodic work than the famous Sarasate and Waxman versions. The level of maturity displayed was astounding.
In playing the Adagio and Fugue from Bach's Sonata No. 1 In G Minor, Wendi Wang (China) had the unenviable task of coming soon after Midori's masterly account of the same work just a week ago. Her lovely tone, clarity of expression and total composure, however, showed she had been well tutored.
The most senior player was Shi Xiaoxuan (China), an alumnus of Yong Siew Toh Conservatory. Her handling of abrupt dynamic shifts in Lutoslawski's Subito was admirable, combining well with an equally adroit Ge Xiaozhe on piano. They made this late 20th-century work sound almost Romantic.
Kim Dong Hyun (South Korea) is perhaps not yet fully ready to take on the rigours of Paganini's very familiar Caprice No. 24 In A Minor, but his work-in-progress showed plenty of promise.
Arguably the best performance of the evening came from Jiang Yiying (China) in Wieniawski's Faust Fantasy, based on themes from Gounod's opera and the longest work on show. There were stretches of slow music in which her violin sang unabated - and so beautifully that loud snoring was heard from the front rows of the auditorium. When it came to letting rip in the final waltz, she did so without hesitation.
The evening closed with Ysaye's fearsome arrangement of SaintSaens' Etude In The Form Of A Waltz, with Lisa Yasuda (Japan) overcoming with aplomb the tricky three-quarter rhythm with the help of pianist Evgeny Sinaiski.