Concert review: Sparkling evening of baroque delights

REVIEW / CONCERT

AN ITALIAN EXTRAVAGANZA

re:Sound with Enrico Onofri

Victoria Concert Hall

Sunday

Lovers of baroque music could not have gotten to a better start this year.

The previous weekend's Red Dot Baroque concert was followed by another sparkling evening, this time by re:Sound, Singapore's first professional chamber ensemble.

The scope was wider, covering some 300 years of Italian music. This was led by Italian violinist-conductor Enrico Onofri, well known for his long association with Italian period instrument group Il Giardino Armonico.

The first half was all baroque, opening with Dario Castello's Sonata No. 16 for strings and harpsichord. Serving as palate teaser, the short single-movement work highlighted clear and incisive playing, with Onofri leading by example. Despite the ensemble's small size, there was never any thinness in sound, just precision playing that piqued the ears.

Italy was the birthplace of the sonata and concerto, and home to the world's first violin virtuosos. In concerti grossi by Arcangelo Corelli and Antonio Vivaldi, the solo (concertino) sections were shared by Onofri, who used three different bows, and re:Sound's own players.

In Corelli's Op. 6 No. 4, he was partnered by violinist Seah Huan Yuh and cellist Robert Choi. Throw in two trumpets and there was a feel of festive grandeur.

For Vivaldi's Op. 3 No. 11, violinist Gabriel Lee and cellist Theophilus Tan stepped into the spotlight. In both works, local soloists blended well with Onofri and were very much his equal. It was then left to him to apply the gilding and ornamentation to his solos, which was spectacular.

There was a cameo by 11-year-old Chloe Chua, Singapore's co-winner of the Menuhin International Violin Competition of 2018, in Winter from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons.

Showing the confidence of a seasoned pro, hers was a consummate reading and it was sheer pleasure to watch her being all eyes and ears, completely sympathetic to all of leader Onofri's gestures and nuances. Each of the three movements was preceded by a reading of Vivaldi's sonnet by William Ledbetter.

The hour-long first half was completed by Luigi Boccherini's famous programmatic quintet called Night Music Of The Streets Of Madrid. Raucous sounds of a summer's evening (of bells, drums, buskers and bands) were simulated. And with cellos strummed like guitars, a rowdy procession ensued before receding into the distance.

Onofri exchanged his bows for a baton in the second half of Italian music from the Romantic era and early 20th century.

There was some tentative playing in the slow introduction of Rossini's Overture to La Cenerentola (Cinderella), but that was soon dispelled in the fast section. Ralph Lim's clarinet solo led the way to a trademark Rossinian crescendo, gradually building up in speed and volume to a rousing climax.

That was followed by the four movements from Respighi's Ancient Airs And Dances Suite No. 1, essentially modern orchestrations of old renaissance and baroque tunes.

It was a melodious and enjoyable romp with lively contributions from woodwinds and harp. The applause was loud and vociferous, with the Rossini overture being encored to further delight.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2019, with the headline 'Sparkling evening of baroque delights'. Print Edition | Subscribe