The past music season

It seems to be quite a while I didn’t pen down a single word on music. Anyway I dun do this for a living.
Now is the time to show that I am never far away from music and log something for the past season.

I continued my almost routine concerts attendance, with my dearest or with my music buddies. I didn’t really count, but at least 40+ concerts/opera/musical for the past season. Of course, classical music still on the center of stage here.

SSO   cd_rach    cd_seascapes

SSO continued to be my daily meal. They did great job. However like most orchestras they have their own form, sometime excellent sometime so so.

Luckily visiting orchestras and musical travels are the supplements to my main course.During the past season, I’ve heard Los Angeles Philharmonic (LAP) and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO), UBS Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra, St. Thomas boys choir and more recently the Deutsche Symphony Orchestra, Berlin, the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and Dresden Staatskapelle.


For LAP, a top 10 in the new Gramophone ranking. I had a high expectation, maybe too high. The perfermance of "La Mer" was great, but I can’t say it’s better than what I heard from the SSO’s interpretation of "La Mer" on their SACD release. Of course, this recording is the best for SSO over the years and confirmed by many critics. And comparing live performance with recorded music does not make much sense.


RPO with Slatkin played a safer way here by playing the Enigma Variations. The "Nimrod" was so memorable that the applause immediate after was the most sincere I ever heard. Not an improper or naive one in between movements. Opening the night was William Walton’s suite for Henry V, another surprising work. (Realized choosing MacMillan’s "The confession of Isobel" my favorite contemporary classical music, I find myself towards the British music again. Yes, I’m a big fan of British pop/rock too!)

Spielzeit 2007 / 2008 fotografiert in Philharmonie, UDK Konzertsaal, Fricsay Saal Berlin Jan / Feb 

Though shadowed by their derby Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Deutsche Symphony Orchestra is also performing at high level as one of the major orchestras in Berlin. The horn section was superb. Strings was also refined and disciplined. Probably the only problem of that night was slightly lack of power for Bruckner’s symphony No. 7.


Japanese orchestras seldom tour. This is my first time hearing a Japanese orchestra live. Like other products from Japan, they are generally known for their quality, in musically terms technical skills and refinement of execution. Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra not only showed this but also a disciplined and wooden European sound. I guess credit goes to the conductor Kazuhiro Koizumi and their music director Inbal

Couple of weeks ago, I heard Dresden Staatskapelle (another top 10 in the gramophone’s new list) in Hong Kong. I’ll blog more together with my Hong Kong trip.

(All photos are from Internet)



第一曲 The Heart Never Lies,词曲都不错,就是MV烂了点,n个MV里n年前就玩过这套了

第二曲 Sorry’s Not Good Enough,也不错,尤其MV拍得超有意思!*_#

Mêlée – Built to Last



A Beginner’s Guide to Classical Music Concerts

Have been thinking of writing a classical music beginner’s guide for a long time. It dates back to the undergraduate time, when myself was a newbie for classical music. Now I’m still one. Nonetheless, I always love to share and promote the good music.

Gradually I found it’s generally impossible to present a practical guide in a few pages. So by the time Art Jam approached me for the guide draft, I decided to do a concerts guide instead, targeting those already made their first steps into classical music. With the help from friends, the work was done pretty fast. At the same time, I was rushing another engineering research paper-_-

This guide is based on Singapore classical music concerts scene. Maybe one day I should generalize it into a gloable guide after I travelled around the world for music and marathons!


Guide1VS Guide2VS

Click on for High Resolution scans  (Copy rights reserved)

Dream Theatre metals

I have long claimed myself musical omnivorous. In fact, of all the major music genera, metal is the one I’m with little knowledge (the rest not much either). This situation was relieved when Mr. Thomas Kook guided me thru his metal CD collections.

On Jan 17th, the all stars metal group Dream Theatre made their return to Singapore in Chaos in Motion World Tour. Mr. Thomas Kook invited me to join him for an evening with Dream Theatre. I was hesitating for quite a few days until one day before the concert. But I did have many reasons to go:
1. With a buddy who loves music & sponsored 50% of the ticket as a birthday gift to me.
2. Dream Theatre is a reputable and one of the best metal groups.
3. Fort Canning Park is the best venue in Singapore for rock/metal performence.

I did enjoy every minute of the concert, including the drizzle – heavy rain – drizzle during the concert. There is no need to waste words on praising the concert. Let the youtube clips and flickr photos do it for me.

For those who said pop/rock concerts in Singapore are boring, pls try at least once a concert in the Fort Canning park. Rock, different from classical, is not just to listen. I’m sure the experience will be so much better than those in the malformed Indoor Stadium. (With current human technology, any concert hall with capacity larger than 5000 is definitely not designed for music/acoustic enjoyment, not to mention it’s an indoor stadium. For classical music this number is further reduced to 3000. As for rock/metal, outdoor is essential for me)

Dream Theatre – Take the Time ‘Live’ in Singapore

Dream Theatre – Forsaken ‘Live’ in Singapore (Look at the rain!)

A few tips for audience going concerts in Fort Canning Park

1. Bring a pair of earplugs if you are not used to loud rock/metal music (the sound pressure may easily exceed 90dB at certain period)
2. Try to sit/stand in the center of the two main loudspeakers to perceive better stereo sound image. Roam around few steps left and right, the sound image may vary dramaticly in the nearby field.
3. Take an extra shirt with you, so you can change after the sweaty concert.

Acknowledgements: Thank you, Thomas Kook and all who made the concert possible.


现在回到blog正题,记录生活。。My current life is simple, music and sports are among my favorite themes to share….
Dec 1 Handel’s Messiah 7:30 pm Esplanade Concert Hall
This is one of the concerts I highly recommended to friends. A definitely masterpiece for God and for music. A great work to tune everyone in a festival mood. The tickets were sold out long time before the concert. Many of the audience were Catholic,
Christian or Choral fans rather than classical lovers. Generally SSO and the chorus done their fine jobs. Most of the times SSO done great job for smaller scale works. For larger scale works somehow they need to be "in form". Among the soloists, bass was the best, alto a bit weak. Rating 7.5
Dec 3 潘伟伯"玩酷"校园演唱会 5:00pm NTU 李光前大讲堂
因为不是音乐厅而是讲堂,所以本来也没对效果有期望。因South spine建筑外观所限,讲堂呈扇形结构,基本是最差的结构之一。墙面大多数为漫反射面,早期反射面较少。作为流行演唱会,还需要使用扩音系统。而讲堂所用音箱完全针对语音而非音乐设计,从挂顶的安排也可见一二,低频重放十分差。再加上讲堂的本身声学特性,导致声音干冷至极。
潘伟伯还是个蛮认真努力的艺人,从小立志当明星,在国外受到良好教育,又在Channel V主持过几年节目。这样一来,至少和听众观众交流沟通方面比很多音乐人要强,继续努力应该不错。这次是Yes933音乐台和NTU CAC联合主办,加反场曲一共唱了5首歌,期间穿插活动,总体来说不错。除了个别Fans,大部分NTU的同学不算疯狂。人不痴狂枉年少,只是不知当时疯狂的fans 50年后靠在摇椅上时可还能记起当时的歌谣?My rating 6 (-1)
Dec 14 Pedals & Pipes: Magic of Christmas  7.30 pm Esplanade Concert Hall
Finally another organ concert from Pedals & Pipes series. This time Dr. Lim, the dean of AGO singapore chapter, collabrated with harpist Katryna Tan and The Celebration Chorus conducted by Tom Anderson to bring another sold out performence in the holiday season. First half of the concert was organ recital works. The repertoire covered from baroque to modern. After intermission, the chorus, harp and brass joined the performence. And the repertoire adapted to more comtemporary works, some are arranged from popular Xmas songs. However the arrangement for harp a little bit weird, most of the time it’s actually masked  by brass or organ. My rating 7 (-1 student tickets were sold out before my booking…)

Heroes and Heroines

17 Nov, NUS YST Conservatory Concert Hall, 730pm

The Conservatory Orchestra
Wang Ya-Hui, Music Director
Katherine Broderick, Soprano

Marriage of Figaro Overture    Mozart
"Porgi Amor" from Marriage of Figaro    Mozart
"Come scoglio" from Cosi fan tutte   Mozart
Der Freischütz Overture   Weber
"Dich, teure Halle" from Tannhäuser  Wagner
Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, Op. 55 “Eroica”  Beethoven

Before the concert, Samuel and I dined in Clementi, where I had my first try of the best rojak in Singapore "Clementi brother rojak". Queued around 15mins. And it’s considered very fast. I was surprised those ppl wouldn’t mind to queue one hour just for a "salad"…Anyway, the rojak is an interesting side dish.

Back to music. It’s also my first time to hear the YST conservatory orchestra and the new concert hall. That’s why it deserved a blog, even in busy and lazy days.

Performence: When hearing the first overture, it’s considered under my expectation, especially the strings. After warming up period, YSTCO corped well with the soprano, who generouslly gave two encores. May be due to the fact that I just heard the VSO version of the same work, ears are still in "aesthetic fatigue". The YSTCO revealled their full strength only in the symphony. This must be the result of intensive rehearsals.

Hall Acoustics: The hall followed the classic "shoe-box" design. Sidewalls are made into diffusers. There is one canopy over the stage. Our seats were in the rear center of the stall. According to Samuel, we were sitting in the best point in the hall. After hearing the whole concert, especially the symphony I generally felt the sound was clear and loud enough, however dry and fatiguing. This showed the sign of poor reverberation, in other words, the lack of mid-reflections.

Closing words: A good side dish on local music menu. An interesting concert with an corresponding title, though I believe "heroes and heroines" should only meet on the battlefield. Rating 7

When the Russians play German works

About two weeks ago, I went to two classical concerts. Coincidently, both concerts were Russian (former Soviet Union, to be precise) musicians playing German works.
Oct 24 Goldberg Variations by Alexey Botvinov, NUS UCC Theater
Known to a few friends, for baroque keyboard pieces I’d alway prefer harpsichord much more than piano. Impressionism or smooth romantic is what I’d like to hear from piano. However I was still temped by this concert, as the Ukrainian pianist was among the winners of the 8th International J.S. Bach competition. I was hoping his trademark Goldberg variations could change my prejudice.
The theater wasn’t too big. Thanks to my friend reserving a seat. The acoustic in the 7th row was still acceptable though with little air-con noise and lack of some nice reverberation. I’m not at all an expert on piano playing. But it’s not too hard to tell the pianist done quite a nice job on the Steinway, though not enough to change my stubborn prejudice. The work was originally composed for two manual harpsichord, so the pianist has to show some technique to conquer it on the piano. Without doubt the Bach competition winner had no problem. My rating goes to 7.
Oct 27 Russian National Orchestra with Mikhail Pletnev, Pinchas Zukerman and Amanda Forsyth
Esplanade Concert Hall
BEETHOVEN : Coriolan Overture, Op 62
BRAHMS : Concerto for Violin & Cello in A minor, Op 102
BEETHOVEN : Symphony No 7 in A, Op 92
With a little luck and help from my friend, I was able to put another big name from my hunting list into a log record. No doubt, RNO is on the world top orchestras list, especially for their world leading reference for Russian works. Though they cancelled the "Pathitique", the Beethoven Symphony No.7 was still a very much promising performence which they had just recorded with DG.

When the orchestra started with Coriolan overture, my ears were still warming up. The timbre of the strings was fine and plain, not too bright. The brass too. Very section is under the control of Pletnev’s baton. When Pinchas Zukerman and his wife joined RNO in the double concerto, my attraction was still more drawn to the orchestra. The quality of RNO and the philosophy of Pletnev was fully revealed  in the Beethoven Symphony No.7. Symphonic and disciplined, Pletnev was able to chisel out a rock-solid performence with RNO. After four or five curtain calls, no encore was given..I was told this was Pletnev’s philosophy and manner. A little bit disappointed, but this wouldn’t change the fact that this concert among the top 10 most memorable concerts I ever been. Rating 9 (-0.5 due to the sub seating)

究竟是空虚可怕, 还是毒品可怕?

新加坡艺术类的平面媒体就不多,即使扩展到综合类,中文能看得貌似就只有联合早报。英文的Strait Times倒是每周会有小部分来做本地音乐会review,不过我的资历水平显然还差些,而且报章类时效性太强,我只是业余写着玩,没法保证。
真正艺术类的目前我接触到的也就两个,一个叫Art Jam,一个叫Art Beats (以前叫Arts Explosion). 后者基本是Classified events list,没有任何介绍/评论类文章。前者到好,编辑部就在NTU,就它了。应该说Art Jam不算是高水平,但也算仅存的艺术类刊物,希望我的文章没有降低其质量。
很快有了邀请信,问我打算写点什么,并给了出版时间。我一看时间紧任务急,还是拣blog里现成的Concerts Preview改改投好了,以后有了时间再写新的。
稿子写好后发给编辑,很快接收了(啥时候我写Engineering Research Paper能混成invited paper,就不愁接收了)。
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