“If music be the food of love, play on…” Shakespeare

                        A quick review of SSO on Campus Concert

“If music be the food of love, play on…”

                                                    —— Shakespeare

So at the dinner time I went to the Nanyang auditorium for this concert delivery.

After the tuning lead by concert master Kong Zhaohui, conductor maestro Lim Yau stepped on the podium in the audience’s applause.

Romeo & Juliet: Fantasy Overture Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Based on Shakespeare’s famous play, this piece is a typical Tchaikovsky work with passion, sweet sorrow melody and fatalism.

The introduction opens with clarinets and bassons in a quiet and slow pace. Soon the strings join in this wish and pray session. After a few repeat and variations, the strings develop into a more dramatic and conflict scene, which embodies the fights between the Romeo and Juliet families. The orchestra suddenly quiet out to end the first theme.

Lead by viola, the famous love theme finally arrives in the auditorium. Woodwinds soar over this theme again accompanied by harp and strings. Development session closed in the peace and quiet harp.

The fights appear again and become more intensive. Attacks from the cymbals push the conflicts to the climax. The love theme comes back with determination and courage, however finally overwhelmed by the funeral like sound by the strings and timpani. The fatalism rules over love. For the last time, the love theme was delivered slow and quiet. It soars high above like in heaven before the tragic love story finally closed by the full orchestra.

For this piece, affected by the horrible acoustics of the auditorium, the silky strings of SSO disappeared, left with us a little dull timbre. The woodwinds have done a satisfying job. However, it’s almost impossible to capture a well balanced orchestra in such a hall. I would rate this performance 7 out of 10 despite the venue.

Fantasy on Bizet’s Carmen, Op. 25 Pablo de Sarasate (1804-1908)

As a familiar works to all, this serves as an ear attracting piece in the whole programme. However, this shortest piece in programme also serves the worst performance. The soloist was not in a communication with the orchestra and conductor. The harmony in between was more or less tore apart. If you closed your eyes and focused your ears to the stage during this performance, you would agree with me. The soloist may be technically good, but he still has room to improve to work with orchestras. There was an inappropriate applause after the second movement and only the one in today’s concert. You may notice the interesting smiles on the musicians’ faces as well. Another interesting thing happened after the performance. The applause was not long enough for an encore. But four bunches of flowers were brought for the soloist. They should know that the soloist has to at least hold his violin with one hand. Ironically, no flower was brought for the conductor after the entire concert. I give 6 out of 10 for this performance.

Symphonic Suite on a Set of Local Tunes Kelly Tang (b. 1961)

This was my most interested piece in the programme since I never heard it before. A few other works by Prof. Tang has attracted me very much. As stated by the composer, this piece uses vast and exquisite sonic palette of the orchestra. The music itself is joyful and light-hearted. However the lack in depth may be the point to attack. 7/10.

Swedish Rhapsody No. 1, Op. 19 Midsummer Vigil Hugo Alfven (1872-1960)

Finally in this piece, SSO was more or less back to its form. From the musicians’ faces, you can tell a little as well. Cheerful and well controlled. SSO demonstrated its quality on this technical demanding piece. 8 out 10 from me.

Fiddle Faddle Leory Anderson (1908-1975)

After two rounds of applause, came the encore piece Fiddle Faddle by Leory Anderson. As told by the conductor, this is a show piece for the orchestra. SSO kept the good sound on and closed the whole concert.

A few other thoughts:

The use of video projection was a two-edged approach. It did capture the orchestra and musicians with more detail. This may be a good attracting point for newcomers of classical music. However the more important part of a concert is always to focus on listening music.

The acoustic property of Nanyang Auditorium is really horrible. The excess of reverberation distort the whole hall. I would suggest audience to sit a little bit closer to the stage than usual to compromise this.

There was also a very annoying noise from the sound system on the ceiling. Can’t imagine how this could be. But it did deteriorate the performance all along.


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