Friday, June 27, 2014

T'ang Quartet's 'Stringfellows' in Review

This is my first time attending a T'ang Quartet concert, given that I've been overseas all these years. The ensemble's trademark of marrying eye catching visual themes with high quality playing. my curiosity to see how their interesting visuals translate into an original concert experience was finally satiated that Sunday afternoon.

Entitled Stringfellows, this concert is a collaboration with four female string players. Rather than playing as the quartet we have come to know, their usual line-up is taken apart and integrated with with four of their female colleagues, violinists Lillian Wong and Tang Tee-Tong, violist Thian Ai-Wen and cellist Elizabeth Tan, all professionals with orchestra positions and concerto performances in their credentials.

Upon entry into the Recital Studio, one's attention is engaged by the attractive pastel coloured tables and chairs, laid out like a cozy cafe. Some students were sitting by the tables laid out in front of the audience seats taking notes. The players are casually but elegantly dressed down. Given the theme of a teatime chat with friends, it's probably one of the simpler layouts as previous presentations have included custom made videos timed to their live playing.

At almost an hour with no intermission, the short programme was a fine display of collaborative musicianship. Only four set pieces were programmed with no encores: Wolf's Italian Serenade in G Major, Schubert's Quartettsatz in C Minor, Borodin's String Sextet in D Minor and Mendelssohn's Octet in E-flat Major. The players demonstrated highly polished ensemble playing, delivering nuanced articulation and fine sense of tension at every moment while keeping a close ear to what their ensemble partners are doing. The eight part fugue that was the final movement of the Mendelssohn Octet demonstrated each player's mastery of his/her respective instrument and keen sense of awareness to their partners' playing. This is collaborative music making at its finest.

The afternoon's session flew by in an instant. I look forward to attending many more of T'ang Quartet's original presentations.

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