Monday, August 16, 2010

Looking Back at Jonathan and David Charles Tay's Concert

It was a lovely night of music-making by Jonathan and David Charles Tay at the intimate venue of the Chamber at the Arts House. The absence of a 'proper' stage brought the performers that much closer to the audience, and both brothers exploited this informality to their advantage.

The opening set, Vaughan William's On Wenlock Edge, had the accompanying string quartet and soloist (David) performing in close proximity with the audience, letting us feel the music even closer than is usually the case. In addition to opening the evening, the Vaughan Williams cycle was also one of its main highlights, calling for a wider variety of instrumental forces than the rest of the program required. I confess to be hearing this piece for the first time; I found it a lovely piece with warm intsrumental colours, interesting harmonics, and a wide scope of emotions. David clearly relished the chance to present his interpretation of this cycle, taking on its difficult challenges head-on without first singing lighter numbers to warm-up. His voice is a velvety dark sound with a shiny head voice, a very polished instrument that is equally balanced in depth and brightness. The scale and evenness of his crescendos are breathtaking, and he intelligently uses these effects to reflect the pathos suggested by the poetry and music. More work however should be made to proper pronunciation as his consonants tend to be swallowed, perhaps a side-effect of his dark timbre. The louder moments also had a pushed quality that he should take care to resolve.

These brothers may be twins, but they look very different and certainly don't sound alike. Jonathan's light tenor colours, while not as polished as his brother’s, had an easy approachability that complimented his straightforward, heart-on-sleeve delivery, perfect for the whimsical, carefree style of Quilter’s song settings. Elsewhere, his boy-next-door affability can be seen as he walked among the audience, strumming his guitar and accompanying himself in Count Almaviva's act 1 canzonetta from Rossini's Barber of Seville.

The Artsylum Quartet played admirably in the Vaughan William's cycle, handling the unusual musical challenges with finesse and matching every ounce of David’s intensity with their own. First violinist Edward Tan gave a dazzling performance of Vitaustas Barkauskas's Partita for Solo VIolin, Op 12, bringing forth beautiful harmonics playing and overcoming its many technical challenges. The warm accoustics of the Chamber complemented the performers well, lending an echoey, surround-sound quality to the music especially to the voices. In total, a lovely evening spent.

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