Darkness in Light – At the Singapore Symphony 6 December 2013

It was 6th December – Finland’s Independence Day. And I was attending a concert featuring some of Finland’s best: Osmo Vänskä , the composer Sebastian Fagerlund and violinst Pekka Kuusisto. The stars seemed to be all in the right places.

Mr Kuusisto was here in Singapore to perform Finnish composer Sebastian Fagerlund’s Violin Concerto, “Darkness in Light”. Considered one of Finland’s most interesting young composers, the music of Fagerlund (b.1972) has been described as an “appealing mix of pulsating rhythmic layers, expansive gestures and undulating extended chords. Sometimes these elements are separate, sometimes blended – but the texture is always intuitively compelling. Brimming with carefully crafted details and elegant transitions, Fagerlund’s music has one clear direction: forward.” (Finnish Music Quarterly http://www.fmq.fi/2011/03/sebastian-fagerlund-full-speed-ahead/)

Photo by Sirpa RäihäI have never heard his music until now. To be frank, it is not easy to describe – but it is certainly very impressive. The opening of the concerto is ferocious as a fast-approaching storm, with skittering winds and wild energy. I pictured swirls of rain, torrents dancing. An exhilarating sense of flow and rhythm propels the first movement, “Energico”. The colours evoked by both orchestra and solo violin are spectacularly varied, with some truly alien sounds from the latter during cadenzas. An array – an aurora – of percussion, including piano with strings plucked directly by hand in the second movement, the “Lento intenso”, added to the post-post-modern soundscape of our century. The musical material warps through the orchestra with unstoppable energy in a multitude of hues, streaks and waves.

My words cannot do it justice, so I invite you to watch and listen to it yourself:

If you are interested in a recording, one is available on BIS with Pekka Kuusisto: Fagerlund: Darkness in Light

The sounds conjured by guest conductor Osmo Vänskä and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra ranged from ethereal otherworldly landscapes to mighty brass paeans reminiscent of one such occurrence heard in Sibelius’s Fifth – a work to come later in tonight’s programme.

I came to this concert  because of Osmo Vänskä. He is, simply, a hero to me. The maestro has been instrumental in my education of Sibelius – he was simply revelatory with his work on BIS, bringing to me vast and precious treasure troves of rare Sibelius. His first visit to Singapore back in 2010 was to conduct Mahler, a matter I lamented slightly about. But on this night, Fagerlund’s concerto was an unexpectedly enjoyable bonus to the symphonic main course: Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony. As one of the first conductors to record the original version of the Fifth, Vänskä is unique, and thus to me, this concert was a must to attend.

More bonuses heaped upon bonuses, as in a rather unusual arrangement, literally, maestro Vänskä began the concert by taking up the 1st clarinet in Dvořák’s Serenade in D minor, Op.44. Together, the ensemble of 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 3 horns, cello and double bass evoked a beautiful atmosphere of quintessential Dvořák. Melodious, summery, nostalgic, “European”, their playing perfectly poised. And speaking of poise, one member of the ensemble pretty much stole the most of the show – Ng Pei Sian’s lively and poetic cello-playing was a thorough joy to watch.

Vänskä’s recordings of the Sibelius’s symphonies always have a special touch to them. When they are really good, they are an absolute revelation. Suffice to say, the performance tonight was simply the best “live” performance of the Fifth I’ve ever heard. Even the flubbing of the opening dawn calls by the horns, and some unsteady woodwind work in the beginning did not ultimately spoil my experience. The finale was taken very fast. The SSO strings kept up dutifully, unified and together, with impressive precision and energy – and the swan hymn was born out of that sweeping soundscape completely naturally and with grace and grandeur. The orchestra simply glowed. The E-flat gradually, and with a smoothness and logic rarely achieved “live” – evolved into the magnificent C major climax. My mouth was open with admiration. The triumphant brass paeans in the finale shimmered and blazed with confidence and life; the final life-affirming chords were perfectly forged, the intervals between the silences masterly timed by Vänskä, each chord reverberating in the Esplanade hall, booming with nature’s mysteries and answers. There I heard the silence that speaks, as Sibelius would’ve put it himself.

The date was 6 December – Finland’s Independence Day. Sitting at row E, I was not surprised to overhear snatches of conversation in Finnish. The man next to me had a Nokia phone. It reminded me, a little nostalgically, of the time I spent in Lahti and Helsinki last year. During the interval, Finns gathered at an embassy gathering, but I made my way to the queue for Pekka Kuusisto’s autograph.

“Mr Kuusisto, could you address this to ‘The Inkpot Sibelius Nutcase’?” I gingerly asked. “It’s a nickname I used when I wrote about Sibelius in the past”.

“The Inkpot? That sounds familiar….. Oh it’s you!” To my delight, it seems he might have remembered the name. :)

dustofhue20131206kuusisto

After the concert, I was still wondering how I might be able to meet and shake Mr Vänskä’s hand. As I was waiting for the crowds to make their way out of the hall, I heard my name being called by a couple of friends.  One of them, let’s call him HP, said aloud that he had been wondering where “Mr Sibelius” had been all night, while the other, let’s call her SY, gave me directions to reach backstage. We paused at the door of the hall to shake the hand of Mr Fagerlund and I told him how much I enjoyed his concerto, and then I made my way backstage. Or rather, to the entrance. I hung around at the door, wondering if the maestro might exit this way. To be honest, I wasn’t hopeful. But as I inched closer to the door, I spotted a familiar face just inside. It was Dr Chang, the local pianophile and reviewer, and not to my surprise he was inspecting his latest autographed CD. :) Anyway, I asked him for help, and with the kind aid of one of the SSO bassists and the generosity of the security guard, I was led in.

Mr Vänskä stepped out of his guest room just as we arrived. I was so happy – it was almost the next best thing to meeting Sibelius himself, perhaps – a master conductor of his music, a powerful spiritual link back to the composer. I told Mr Vänskä about my love and work promoting Sibelius, got him to autograph the original BIS issue of the original version of the Fifth Symphony, and showed him, using my iPad, the Sibelius Facebook Page I run. “On behalf of Sibelius,” he said genially, “Thank you.”

I plan to see him again in 2015 – he confirmed he will be doing one concert in Lahti, for the Sibelius 150th anniversary celebrations.

The Inkpot Sibelius Nutcase with conductor Osmo Vänskä
The Inkpot Sibelius Nutcase with conductor Osmo Vänskä


At the Singapore Symphony, 3 March 2012

SSO 3 Mar 2012 TicketBefore going to this concert, I scanned through my entire collection of CDs looking for an album by Marc-André Hamelin for him to autograph. I could not find a single one. I was thoroughly disgusted with myself.

During the days at the Flying Inkpot (or go to flyinginkpot.com for the new site), Mr Hamelin’s fame was expanding at high gear. His recordings with Hyperion Records, including works by many an unknown composer, astounded the music circles. It was a great time for exploring piano music. Mr Hamelin’s discography is still humongous – though I am not a big fan of piano music, I have immense respect for him for championing the lesser known. I was pretty sure I had something from his discography… didn’t I own the Alkan concerto at least? I shall have to put this down under the Possible List of CDs I Loaned Out Last Century That I Have No Hope of Getting Back.

Never mind. Again I confess, I didn’t really come for the concerto. Even the concert title/ticket makes no mention of it or who. Except we’re talking about Beethoven’s poetic Piano Concerto No.4, with no less than Marc-André Hamelin, one of the world’s living best.

And he played with masterful composure. Hamelin entered the stage with the quiet poise reserved only for the noblest of pianists. He brought wisdom to the piano, and instantly becalmed the audience with one single notion: this elegant concerto will be played as it should be. It was simply all right. The work, a gentle sister to the majestic “Emperor” Concerto, gave both pianist and orchestra ample opportunities to display subtlety of meditative touch and beauty of tone. The SSO strings gave wonderful performances, full of strength and delicacy, giving me great hope for the second half of the concert.

The concerto’s Andante struck me with its somewhat searching, meditative character. It was almost Sibelian in quality. The thoughtful, melancholic tone, the way melodies seemed incompletely formed, wandering, and that final, elegaic sigh – Hamelin evoked to perfection. While there was an inordinate amount of coughing and velcro-tearing during the first movement and perhaps halfway through the Andante, by the end of the latter, Hamelin had the entire hall in his kingly hold, and we stayed enraptured till the end of the finale. The word that kept appearing in my mind was “dignified”. Hamelin, the SSO and Okko Kamu delivered a performance that exuded dignity, a Beethovenian nobility upheld by assurance of skill.

During the intermission, I approached the SSO merchandise booth and picked up a copy of Hamelin’s recordings of his own piano compositions, including his 12 Études in all the minor keys. I felt that asking such a great pianist to simply autograph the programme booklet was not respectful enough. And in any case, I still love to hear new music, and here was a whole disc of it played by the composer. Standing in the middle of the queue, I discovered to my delight that the Hyperion disc had a clear tray, behind which was a photograph of Mr Hamelin.

Yes, that 2″x 1″ corner of cloudy weather was perfect for an autograph.

Autograph - Marc-André Hamelin

Like Mr Grosvenor before, Mr Hamelin was very amused by my request. He chuckled with a warm smile, and added an extra “(!)” after “Nutcase”. I told him how dignified his performance was, and we shared a warm handshake. Such a gentleman. A good memory, worth treasuring.

* * * * *

A young lady reads about Sibelius while queuing for Hamelin's autograph
A young lady reads about Sibelius while queuing for Hamelin's autograph. I badly wanted to tell her that the last paragraph is inaccurate. There is much evidence that Sibelius was still composing into the late 1930s, and hadn't "abandoned composition in the 1920s", as the notes say.

My memory has not forgotten the fact that Okko Kamu is the conductor who granted my wish to hear the Seventh Symphony “live”, in 1999. While I did actually tell him my wish in person, sometime in the late 1990s, I suppose he would’ve done it anyway sooner or later, even if the Inkpot Sibelius Nutcase didn’t exist. But otherwise, the SSO isn’t the first orchestra in Singapore to complete a cycle of the Sibelius Symphonies – that honour lies with The Philharmonic Orchestra, which did it under Lim Yau in 2007-2008 (of which this author wrote the programme notes).

Listening to the Seventh Symphony “live”, I sometimes want to slow the experience of time, just so I can savour it. In a “live” performance, there is no rewind button (and truthfully, trying to rewind the Seventh is a crime). Still, the best performances proceed with inexorable logic. It is a timeless 21 minutes of life, which feels neither long nor short, a chance to touch the face of symphonic divinity – you want it to last but you know it cannot.

Twenty minutes for a symphony is very short in the tradition of classical music. My wife texted me, as I was on my way home before 10pm, asking how come I was so early. My answer to her, besides asking what she wanted for supper, was simple.

Truth be told, I have held the expectation of coming to this concert for so many months, I found it a little hard to satisfy the anticipation – it was soon to be over.  The expectation must have been tremendous, you must think. But after last week’s so-so performance of the Fourth and Fifth Symphonies, I was not too hopeful – until I heard the Beethoven.

To my delight, the SSO opened Sibelius’ Sixth Symphony with full forest light and glittering sunshine. A font from which came a musical stream of pure cold spring water, as Sibelius might have put it. The orchestra reveled in the chamber-like quality of the music, by turns bright and spirited, or dimming as it invoked wisps of Tapiola. As a whole, the SSO sounded much, much better than it did last week – in fact, it sounded almost like a completely different orchestra. Strings and winds all played with unity and wonderful transparency. While I wished the harp scintillated a little more, otherwise the sounds the orchestra created were bright, airy, sparkling, as befits this, the most sylvan of Sibelius’ symphonies.

I was seated by the side of the hall during the first half with the concerto, but moved to the centre, near the back for the symphonies. I had the whole row to myself, as well as the devoted attention of a well-serviced air conditioning vent. Suitably cold and wintry, the spring waters of the Sixth gave way to the alpine magnificence of the Seventh.

As he did in 1999, Kamu led the orchestra with impressive command. I gasped as lines of the score appeared that I don’t recall hearing before – that’s the best thing about hearing works like this “live”. The SSO once again displayed remarkable transparency, particularly in the strings. While not 100% perfect, they did ample justice to the score. The horns, so rough last week in the Fifth, sounded amazing tonight. The musicians held the performance united, creating voluminous layers of sounds – bass pedals, soaring strings, fluttering woodwind. They held it all very well together. But ironically, it was in the three mighty trombone solos where their act of breeching from the unified layers to intone their majestic hymn seemed disruptive.

Perhaps, like in 1999, Kamu sought not to allow the three climaxes to become overwhelming. I found them slightly underwhelming, though not in an entirely bad way.  It just seemed a little too carefully toned down. The final bars, the symphony’s final invocation of infinity, flowed into being much too soon for me to savour. I was distracted by the bass trombone coming in a split second too early, and was trying to grasp what it meant – but there was no time: the final C major chord was here. Infinity came, wrought with timelessness and Sibelius commanded that the symphony end. Kamu swept his baton, the SSO surged in volume. I didn’t want it to end, I wanted it to last longer. But alas, the light blazed and dimmed out of existence, and I was cast out from the black field of stars, feeling all alone back on earth.

It was not a perfect performance, it was not the greatest I’ve heard, and I was left a little emotionally unsatisfied – but it was still a good performance. Good enough, that may I say, if you keep it this way, SSO, I think you are ready for Tapiola.

At the Singapore Symphony, 24 Feb 2012

I ran for the Fourth Symphony. I sprinted for the tritone. I was running late, simply because I stopped for dinner right after knocking off from office, before heading to the Esplanade Concert Hall, and the meal took much longer than expected. Burned my tongue.

7pm and I was at Queenstown Station. On the way I scanned for cabs. On a Friday night? Nah, little chance, and no guarantee I won’t be caught in a jam. The rail map said I needed 13 minutes to reach City Hall Station. Then, I figured I needed at least 10 minutes to reach the concert hall.  I reached City Hall at 715pm. Not bad. But I still ran.  8 months of gym training coming into use.

Turned out, I had more than 5 minutes to spare, and by the time the grim tritone of the Fourth Symphony began, I had settled into my seat to hear the SSO attempt one of the most difficult Sibelius symphonies to pull off on an unsuspecting audience.  I think it’s fair to say most of the crowd (the hall was about half filled, I estimate) came for the Schumann Piano Concerto with Benjamin Grosvenor, and perhaps the popular Sibelius Fifth. That’s why the Fourth opens the concert. It’s so that you can’t run away.

But the SSO did not pull it off well. I don’t blame them. Dr Chang Tou Liang helpfully recalled for me – as I chatted with him at the head of the queue for  Grosvenor’s autographs – that the last time the SSO attempted the Fourth was circa 2000, “with Andrei Gavrilov, the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto, remember?” Dr Chang, you’ve got a really good memory, and this helped me find this old Inkpot review of the SSO concert from 28 July 2000.

Looking back, it sounds as if they actually did better back then. This night’s performance felt unconvincing, I had the feeling that the SSO could not feel for the work. As a result, it felt a little dis-unified, lacking that musical integration so crucial to Sibelius. There were some very good moments – the cello solos, the big tutti sections, but things like the interplay between various lines and phrases lacked organic unity. They were not seamless enough. As he did in 2000, Kamu led the orchestra without a break between the first and second movements, as well as between the third and final movements – this was just as effective this night as it was back then.

As the symphony drew to a close, I listened and watched how the SSO dealt with the “logical collapse” that makes up the ending of the Fourth. Alas, this too was not pulled off convincingly. It lacked that sense of helpless dissipation, that makes me feel utterly quiet and desolate, even a little grim, when the Fourth ends. While I applaud the SSO for trying – to play the Fourth is no mean feat – I feel that 12 years ought to have made an improvement. Till next time, then.

At the conclusion of the Schumann Concerto (see below)

The concert ended with Sibelius’ Fifth. This was a much better affair, performance-wise, that hiccup in the woodwinds during the opening “sunrise” notwithstanding. My main problem was with the transparency of the orchestra again, not unlike that in the Fourth. There were times when even the strings overwhelmed the brass, and many passages where I could not hear more than one musical line. That’s not the way a Sibelian orchestral score should sound, even at fortissimo. In the famous “Swan Hymn”, the horns sounded rough instead of pure. In fact, overall the sound of the orchestra in the hall was much muddier than I expected.

Despite these there were a number of well-played sections as far as pacing was concerned – the transition between the original first and second movements was very well-handled. Kamu directed in a tempo somewhat slower than I’m used to, and the orchestra followed exactly, smoothly. Their final test, the final chords were delivered with ample conviction.

I didn’t come for the concerto nor the young talented pianist who played them, I confess. But it was certainly the highlight. Benjamin Grosvenor, all 19 years of him, played with the eloquent mastery of a mature musician. His command of the piano is complete and unwavering, the instrument willingly obeying every one of his calls for sparkling clarity and lyric runs. Hunched over the keyboard, he played the Schumann with consummate ease and conviction, and the SSO provided beautiful support. Bravo to this young man. I would rather not call him a prodigy, I would simply call him a great pianist.

He chuckled when I asked him to do me a favour and sign his autograph to the Inkpot Sibelius Nutcase (I did this once before with Jennifer Koh). He asked me if this was some kind of internet nickname, and I explained that yeah I’ve been championing the composer online for some time, that I confess I’d come for the symphonies but I thoroughly enjoyed his performance. “Nutcase – really?”, he confirmed with a smile before writing. Later I could not help but realize that when I began championing Sibelius’ music online around the late 1990s, Mr Grosvenor was just 6 years old.  I wish him the best.

A quiet, hushed splendour – Kavakos plays Sibelius (SSO 8 Sep 2011)

Concert Ticket (Kavakos Plays Sibelius 8 Sep 2011)While it is exciting to know that the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) will soon embark on its first complete cycle of Sibelius’ seven symphonies, I was even more excited about the prelude to this cycle – Leonidas Kavakos coming here to play the Violin Concerto. It’s been more than a decade since I wrote about his debut recording of no less than the world-premiere of the original 1903/1904 version of the concerto on BIS. In that CD release, he also performed a magnificent rendition of the final version.

The “Abergavenny” Stradivarius (1724) that Kavakos played on sings wonderfully hushed pianissimi, as we heard right at the beginning of the opening movement. It was a rapt moment that captured the music’s stillness perfectly. This wondrous tranquility would be brought to full fruition in the Adagio, but to be honest, the rest of the first movement felt restrained, never quite reaching the level of conviction that Kavakos played with in the aforementioned recording for BIS. I was later told that he was not feeling well, that he had to even rehearse sitting down. Perhaps that was the reason.

The good news is that that was far from the best part of the whole concert. The Adagio was simply: very moving. The heartfelt quietude, the hushed splendour of the music in the hands of Kavakos and SSO, was truly an emotional experience that can only be experienced “live”. I had tears in my eyes. It was perhaps because I was seated so close to the stage, second row – I could see each and every delicate movement from Kavakos and his instrument as they sang sunset melancholia. The couple next to me comprised a lady who sat enraptured throughout the whole concerto, but her male friend obviously belonged to the “I came along because she needed my company” category. So what was surprising was that during the Adagio, he felt compelled to hold her hand after a few minutes into the movement, and they stayed like this for the rest of the 10-minute movement.

Leonidas Kavakos receives applause. At the Esplanade Concert Hall.

For me, someone who has listened to this work for so many years, “live” and on numerous records, I guess I really need a “live” performance of this moving intensity to remind myself again why this piece is so beautiful, why I love this composer so. Kavakos held the audience in total silence for some ten seconds after the final note of the Adagio whispered away. Nobody dared to make a sound.

The driving momentum, the confident precision of the finale’s opening theme exactly reminded me of Kavakos’ 1991 recording. The galloping rhythm is exactly right, the drive powerful but not overly so, nicely sculpted. Kavakos clearly believed in this music, holding an impassioned but measured voice throughout. At the first big orchestral tutti, I watched with delight as he turned towards the orchestra and bowed along with the massed violins that distinctively stern “marcatissimo” theme. Personally, I’d always felt that for music this stirring, if I were the soloist, I wouldn’t be able to resist playing along – so I loved it that Kavakos did.

Praise also to the SSO woodwinds and brass, especially during the  Adagio. They sounded beautiful – and bode well for their upcoming journey, especially for the Third and Fifth Symphonies.

Much to my great disappointment (but I kept it well hidden, I must admit), Kavakos did not come out to grant autographs. Apparently he was due to rush off straight to the airport after this concert. Still, he found time to give two much-appreciated encores. The Sarabanda from Partita No.2 in D minor BWV 1004, and the Andante from Sonata No. 2 in A minor, BWV 1003.  The ancient voice of the 274-year-old “Abergavenny” violin did these more than ample justice. Till now, I’m still wondering if it would’ve been more worth it to trade those for an autograph session. I don’t think the rapturous audience would agree with me.

A fitting paragraph on Jean Sibelius, from the SSO programme booklet.

Kavakos in Singapore

The Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos (not to be confused with the Spartan, who did not play the violin) will be playing the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra on 8 September 2011. Curiously, no one, not even the SSO, has mentioned the fact that he is just about the only person in modern times to have performed the original 1903/04 version of the Sibelius Violin Concerto. He was the soloist in BIS’ 1992 world-premiere recording of the original score, which I reviewed at The Flying Inkpot in 1998 – the article is republished here.

Kavakos plays Sibelius with SSO 8 Sep 2011
SSO July-Sept 2011 Season

As far as I remember, after the recording, the score was returned to the Sibelius family. Leonidas Kavakos is thus the only violinist to have performed the original work since its one and only 1904 premire (which was a bit of a disaster by the way). In any case, this unique experience Mr Kavakos had probably makes his understanding of the concerto different from other violinists. Well worth hearing.

Here he is captured in Athens in 2008, performing the concerto (the final version). We’ll be able to catch him in Singapore on 8 September, 2011 at the Esplanade.

Somewhat inexplicably, the concerto is paired with Mahler’s First Symphony. The concert also marks the beginning of a complete symphony cycle by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra conducted by Okko Kamu – only the second time in Singapore. The first complete Sibelius cycle was performed by The Philharmonic Orchestra under Lim Yau from 2007-2008.

Kavakos Plays Sibelius – 8 September 2011 (Thu), 7.30pm, Esplanade Concert Hall
SIBELIUS: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op.47
MAHLER: Symphony No.1 in D major “Titan”
Leonidas Kavakos (violin), conducted by Lan Shui. Tickets from SISTIC. [Reviewed on Dust of Hue]

The Sibelius Symphonies: Finlandia – 16 September 2011 (Fri), 7.30pm, Esplanade Concert Hall
SIBELIUS: Finlandia
LALO: Cello Concerto in D minor
SIBELIUS: Symphony No.2 in D major, Op.43
Ng Pei-Sian (Cello), conducted by Okko Kamu

The Sibelius Symphonies: Nos. 1 & 3 – 20 September 2011 (Tues), 7.30pm, Esplanade Concert Hall
SIBELIUS: Symphony No.3 in C major, Op.52
MOZART: Piano Concerto No.23 in A major, K.488
SIBELIUS: Symphony No.1 in E minor, Op.39
Melvyn Tan (piano), conducted by Okko Kamu

This is Melvyn Tan’s debut with the SSO, and I for one am glad he has made it home.

The Sibelius Symphonies: Nos. 4 & 5 – 24 February 2012 (Fri), 7.30pm, Esplanade Concert Hall
SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 4 in A minor, Op. 63
SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54
SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 82
Benjamin Grosvenor (piano), conducted by Okko Kamu [Reviewed on Dust of Hue]

The Sibelius Symphonies: Nos. 6 & 7 – 3 March 2012 (Sat), 7.30pm, Esplanade Concert Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58
SIBELIUS: Symphony No.6 in D minor, Op.104
SIBELIUS Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 105
Marc-André Hamelin (piano), conducted by Okko Kamu [Reviewed on Dust of Hue]

(Tickets from the usual SISTIC places).

Well, the SSO programmers have done well pairing the Sibelius symphonies with famous pianists. That should fill up some seats! And hopefully give a valuable opportunity to those unfamiliar with Sibelius’ symphonies to hear these masterpieces. Yes yes, I don’t think Sibelius is as popular as he should be, and I honestly don’t imagine many will deliberately attend a concert for his symphonies. Still, a complete symphony cycle with the national orchestra is an achievement.

I’m unable to say which of these concerts would be the most worth going – they all are. Though of course if I HAD to pick one, it would be the last one with the Seventh Symphony.

Marc-André Hamelin! I hope pianophiles will stay back to hear the final and greatest symphony of Sibelius! If not, can you give me your ticket? :)

At the Singapore Symphony, 30 July 2010

I wrote my last concert reviews for The Flying Inkpot some eight years ago.  The reason why I stopped in 2002, is, well, now 8-years-old.

I know I'm not supposed to take photos inside the hall, but this bit of memory means a lot to me.

She was born earlier in the same year as the opening of the Esplanade theatres and concert hall. Fatherhood of the hands-on variety bade me slow down writing, then reluctantly give up my editorship at The Flying Inkpot. With it also went regular concertizing, as well as concentrated listening to anything more than 15 minutes long. Well luckily Sibelius is known for his conciseness. Alert readers might have noticed that as Chia Han-Leon stopped writing at the Inkpot, Continue reading At the Singapore Symphony, 30 July 2010

Jennifer Koh replaces Pike for July 30th Sibelius

Jennifer Koh – Photo by Janette Beckman, from jenniferkoh.com


Ah the serendipitous power of the web. I was googling for information on the soloist for the Singapore Symphony’s July 30th concert, featuring the Sibelius Violin Concerto, when I came across an SSO Press Release, dated July 8, announcing that Jennifer Pike, the young UK violinist originally slated to play here, will not be able to visit due to health reasons. In her place is the American violinist Jennifer Koh, who by the way is born of Korean parents.

This is interesting, since Miss Koh has played under Osmo Vänskä, and recorded the violin concerto of another Finnish composer, Uuno Klami, under the BIS label. I’ve taken the opportunity to republish it again here at dustofhue.com. This time, I know her Korean heritage.

http://www.sso.org.sg/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=276:american-violinist-jennifer-koh-replaces-jennifer-pike-on-jul-30&catid=8:media-releases&Itemid=41

A Korean Greeting from Way Back

A couple of days ago I received a politely penned email from a Korean.

My name is Jinho Kim, A Korean concert pianist who gave performances of Tchaikovsky piano concerto with SSO in 2001…

What a pleasant surprise! It turned out to be a pianist I watched and reviewed all the way back at the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, on 21st April 2001, more than 9 years ago. The review is still at the Inkpot.

Continue reading A Korean Greeting from Way Back