The Orchestra of the Music Makers (OMM) has been championing the performance of large-scale repertoire. The 7th Symphony of Anton Bruckner is not as extended as some of the works OMM programmed last year, allowing two other works to be included in the first half last Saturday.
The concert opened with a world premiere of The Red Longkang by Lee Jinjun, a trumpeter and founding member of the orchestra who has turned composer after further training in the United Kingdom.
Modern but still accessible, his reflection on local scenes from his childhood was reminiscent of La Valse by Ravel, with references to other music with aquatic and colonial influence.
Lee conducted his own composition, which at one point used the melody of the Blue Danube Waltz, an ironic gesture for a piece whose name translates to Red Canal. He also used the Dayong Sampan theme in an inverted form. The utterance of Rule Britannia did seem over the top, though.
Lee's relative lack of podium experience led to a premiere that did not fully show off the strengths of the piece. Some of the sweeping gestures and dramatic interludes make this a work that deserves another outing.
Igor Yuzefovich was, until a month ago, concertmaster of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO), while in transition to become joint concertmaster of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. He returned as soloist with OMM in the Violin Concerto No. 1 by Max Bruch, which, like the Bruckner symphony in the second half, is a mainstay of the late romantic period.
REVIEW / CONCERT
OMM: IGOR • BRUCH AND BRUCKNER
Orchestra of the Music Makers - Chan Tze Law (conductor), Igor Yuzefovich (violin)
School of the Arts Concert Hall
His performance was one of graceful, rather than unbridled, power, with silky, stylish sound throughout. He had a minor stumble in the last movement, but it did not detract from a strong performance overall.
In the medium-sized Sota concert hall, both soloist and orchestra were able to generate ample volume. Conductor Chan Tze Law drew a warm, rich sound from OMM, who produced some of their best tone and ensemble work heard to date. His tempos were comfortable, as we have come to expect, although one felt that the orchestra was overly restrained in the Finale, holding Yuzefovich back.
Bruckner's 7th Symphony typically lasts 70 minutes in performance, during which great demands are placed on all musicians, especially the strings, woodwinds, trumpets and horns, which include four Wagner tubas (a variant of the French horn).
Chan's calm, clear conducting and well-shaped lines helped maintain continuity over extended sections and the long movements. Concertmaster Chan Yoong Han from the SSO was a steady, inspiring leader, and it was good to see Natalie Koh, a Yong Siew Toh Conservatory student, leading the second violins with confidence. The strings were particularly outstanding in the dance-like third movement.
In this concert, noticeably more wind principal positions were helmed by professional players rather than community players and they played their very demanding parts superbly. Special mentions are due to Lau Wen Rong (trumpet), Vincent Goh (clarinet), Benedict Chua (horn) and the other eight horns and Wagner tubas.
A minor disappointment was the dispassionate demeanour of the leading players who were visible from this reviewer's seat, other than their expressive concertmaster. Their music and sound spoke otherwise, but audiences do listen with their eyes too.
Once again, OMM has pulled off a mammoth programme. Their first performance of a Bruckner symphony and the successful debut of their set of Wagner tubas bode well for their ambitious plan to premiere Wagner's The Valkyrie next year.