Saturday, August 27, 2011

Singapore Lieder Festival - 19 to 21 Aug 2011 in Review

Our reviewer Christopher shares his opinion on the recent Lieder Festival (Schubert Complete Song Cycles):

The art song genre is often neglected in Singapore; while we have no shortage of  performances of symphonies, operas and instrumental recitals, song recital is still rare. Kudos to the Sing Song Club and The Arts House for taking on the task of organising the first ever Singapore Lieder Festival, both to offer a performing platform for the young (and not so young) vocalists as well as to expose the audience to this genre of music. This year's festival comes in two installments: the first on Franz Schubert Complete Song Cycles (19 to 21 August) and the second on Robert Schumann Song Cycles of 1840 (from 2 to 4 September).

The first installation featured Franz Schubert's Die Schoene Mullerin (19 Aug), Schwanengesang (20 Aug) and Winterreise (21 Aug), performed by Peter Ong, Daniel Fong and Adrian Poon respectively. All three vocalists are well prepared and well rehearsed. Both Peter and Daniel possess a large voice with a darker hue, while Adrian had a sweet lyrical voice. All three singers are able to grasp the content of the pieces, and bring out the lines and diction well and clear. One can also sense a certain enthusiam (or anxiety) and perhaps inadequate breathing spaces were allowed in between individual songs, this is particularly obvious in Winterreise, when that space is very important to colour the depressed mood.

All three soloists sang with scores, this had been an acceptable performance practice. However, Peter Ong seems to be over-reliant on the scores, what a pity, he could have had more interaction with the audience. Comparatively, Daniel and Adrian only refer to their scores sparingly, taking advantage of the small hall to allow more eye exchanges with the audience.

One could not say that the soloists are perfect in their vocal techniques; however, their conviction in their interpretation  largely overcame their technical deficiencies. Ultimately, German lieders are more than mere singing, they are tone pictures that convey a certain atmosphere, a certain mood. One can sense the amount of preparation in their earnest attempt to interpret the songs (sometimes perhaps too much details was focused on such that the big overall picture was lost).

Throughout all three nights, Shane Thio give his usual supportive accompaniment and complimented the performers well.

The Arts House Living Room is a perfect venue for song recital. It is intimate, and not overbearing as it would be in a larger concert hall. Acoustics are warm and complimentary for setting lieder performances. One would certainly like to have more of such perfomances in the future.

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