Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Performance Review: The Joy Chorale with BHSO's 'Faure Requiem'

The Joy Chorale in Concert
with members of Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Khor Ai Ming
SOTA Concert Hall, Singapore
3rd April 2016

A Review by Hawk Liu

It was a joy to witness this Faure's Requiem concert. The Requiem was a lovely work and I looked forward to it and I wasn't disappointed. The small orchestral forces blended surprisingly well for the seemingly big sound it needs to drive. The orchestra worked well together to produce a beautiful soundscape that is so important in the work. There was a weird moment when the cellos did 'leave the soundsound' for a few seconds and another when the horns went strangely off pitch. Despite the hitches, it was a great ensemble.

The Joy Chorale handled the score well. Great alto passage in the second movement - beautifully blended and sung with a lovely tone. The tenors sang well in their solo passage in the first movement albeit soft due to their small number. One thing was certain though, the work was sung with passion throughout and there wasn't a moment when I didn't feel they cared about what they sang and that's a rare quality.

The baritone soloist, Alvin Tan, had a beautiful tone that fit the work like a glove. It was a passionate and exciting interpretation. Samuel Yuen, the boy soprano, did a reasonable job for his only solo. Unfortunately for me, I feel the timbre was edgy and didn't fit into the soundscape of the work.

As I didn't stay for most of the second half of the programme, I shall only comment on the famous Thais meditation with violinist Gabriel Ng and Bertrand Lee on the piano. Ng played very lovely tones on the instrument throughout. The interpretation, however, lacked the pathos required for depicting the tragedy of Thais from the opera. As a start, the pace was taken too fast with the phrases being glossed over too quickly. Thais went through being a courtesan, and then having doubts about the longevity of her beauty, to making the resolution to serve God only. Her oblivion to the amorous pouring from Athanael, the priest who took it upon himself to convert her, played out with great intensity in their final duet, repeating the meditation in the orchestra. The performance here didn't match up to what it really meant in the opera.

Despite the small misgivings, it was an enjoyable evening. One of my companions that evening said she would go to more of such concerts for the future.

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