Vincent’s take on the concerts/shows in 2014

This is backblog keeping. Just to record my personal take of the 2014 concerts/shows before it’s too late..

The Exceptional:
I attended many concerts/shows through the year. Most are good (e.g. many concerts by Singapore Symphony Orchestra ). Some are exceptional or much better than what I had expected.

The second night of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) in the Esplanade.
World class orchestra playing on form.

Orchestra of the Music Makers playing “Planets” in the Esplanade
This was my first time hearing “Planets” live. The orchestra simply out did themselves again. I really look forward to their Mahler symphony No.8 concert this year.

A Dream Like A Dream in Esplanade theater
This play changed the definition of a play to me, full stop.

Cameron Carpenter organ recital in Segerstrom Concert Hall, Orange County, CA, US.
Before the concert, the only thing I knew about him was his almost rebellious dress as an organist. However the way he talked about music in the concert was so sincere and way better than many other organists I heard.

The Disappointing:
Good or bad is subjective. But some are simply disappointing.

Facing Goya
Hype and hype before the start of the poor-line-upped, inaugural Singapore International Arts Festival (SIFA). The musicians from the Singapore Symphony Orchestra had actually done a good job. Unfortunately that’s not enough from saving a disappointing show.
This poorly staged opera tried so hard to present some idea that was much better presented a hundred times in novels, films, etc.. I really regret wasting my time in the otherwise lovely cozy newly renovated Victoria theater.

First night of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) at the Esplanade
The orchestra just sounded jet lag. An average form SSO would play better than the LSO on that night.

The Mixed Bag

Jordi Savall: Jerusalem
Great music making for sure. Exceptional programme and presentation. However, the use of loudspeaker killed the pure beauty of acoustic experience. Did the organizer know that the Esplanade concert hall is capable of producing a better experience?

The Ugly

Israel Philharmonic performing in Marina Bay Sands MasterCard Theatres.
Normally I would not comment on concerts I didn’t attend. But this one is out right kidding.
The organizer put an excellent orchestra into a good example of failed acoustic venue in a glittering shopping mall. What a waste! I am so glad I didn’t purchase myself a ticket to regret.

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Spotify user report in Singapore

Have been using Spotify as my main streaming service for both classical and pop/rock/indie music for a while. Just like to share with you my experience here. And you can judge whether you wanna give it a try or even pay for it. I’m not going into discussion how spotfiy is paying the musicians here.

This report is based on both PC and Android versions.

Pros:
1. One of the biggest streaming provider, legal, free (at least for basic service).
2. PC version is totally user friendly.
3. The premium account charge of $10 per month is also reasonable. I’m assuming you would agree that one month of music streaming service should be more valuable than two cups of mediocre Starbucks coffee.

Cons:
Mobile version still lacks some key feature.
1. For free account, you can only shuffle play a playlist. If the playlist contains only a few tracks (e.g. a symphony), spotfiy will insert other tracks they think you would like (so far i find their recommendation pretty poor..)

Some smart guy would suggest use the skip button for this. The spotify guys are not dumb either. They set a 6 skips per hour rule on the free mobile account.

I know you’ll be really be pissed off when you were listening to some great rock, suddenly one of the “boring” Bach’s cantatas was inserted (this is purely fictional, I have not experienced classical inserted into pop/rock listening session. Btw, isn’t that a good way to raise the awareness of classical music?)
Vice vesa, when you were listening to the St. Matthew’s Passion, you will certainly be annoyed when some crap pop popped up.

2. Another key feature lacking in mobile app is that there is no way to find out which musicians you are following. Everytime you need to search the entire spotify database.

Update: this has been rectified in the latest version.

3. Apart from that, when data connection lost, you can’t playback the cached tracks you just listened. I find this more useful feature than having to preload the offline tracks.

Miscs:

Spotify uses Ogg Vorbis as encoding format, which is a fine choice. Even though it is not as great as what I would like to have DTS Headphone:X. (Disclaimer: I work for DTS.)

Another thing I really hope Spotify could do is to launch their premium service together with Singtel. Such that the data charge can be free or at least much more than the plan package quota. I feel my 3GB monthly quota not able to keep up if I were to use Spotify as my sole mobile music service. I know that would mean Singtel have to kill their own AMPed which I have yet heard a good report.

Before all these being fixed, I’ll be still paying my naxos.com subscription, they’re even cheaper than spotify and also cover a pretty wide repertoire for classical music.

Darkness in Light

Last Friday, I attended a concert by Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) in esplanade concert hall. The title of this post actually comes from the concert.

It is also the name of the violin concerto composed by Finnish composer Sebastian Fagerlund.

One interesting fact of the concert is that, this was the first time I heard both the conductor and soloist performed in the orchestra (besides conducting and playing as a soloist). Conductor Vanska played clarinet in the opening piece, while violinist Pekka Kuusisto joined in the violin section in the second half.

The concert openned with Dvorak’s Serenade in D minor, which is certainly not a standard piece in concert programme. In fact, this was the first time I heard it. It’s always good to hear some thing new. But to be honest, I find the color tone a bit strange. Most of the time, oboe was the only instrument on high register, and sounded floating out of the otherwise bass dominated ensemble (bassoon, horn, cello, double bass).

The Asian premiere of Fagerlund’s Violin Concerto turned out to be a rather interesting piece. I particular like the slow movement. There happens to be a great recording on youtube by Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the same soloist Friday, Pekka Kuusisto. You can find out yourself here.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMAkBHqnJ6A  part 2

The main attraction of the concert for me was Sibelius’ Symphony No.5 in the second half. Having heard both Vanska’s recordings with Lahti Symphony and Minnesota Orchestra on BIS label. I was eager to find out how it worked out with SSO. The performance sounded generally fine, apart from some minor late entry of section in the beginning. I would also like the woodwind sounded a bit “colder” or more distinct from the string section. This is Scandinavian music, right?
The audience broke into applause after the first movement. You can tell this applause was sincere rather than inappropriate.

On my way back home, I chatted with my friend in SSO who played in the concert just now. When I told him Vanska just resigned from Minnesota Orchestra, which has locked out its musicians and cancelled the entire 2012-2013 season and ongoing. His reply was rather simple and true: whenever economy worsen, arts suffer the first.

When most people had to make a choice between bread and music, the answer would be apparent. Even though I skipped my dinner for the concert, I have to make sure my family were well fed. I play my part in supporting the music community by purchasing music live or recorded, from rock/pop to classical. Over the past 10+ years, the money I spend on music can easily pay me a car, say Volkswagen Golf (not in Singapore with the current COE..). However most people today expect music to be free. Many artists were forced to become “entertainer” and many many f**king boring “artists” jumped on to the stage to “entertain” the mindless audience.

I guess I should stop here. This is Darkness in light, happening now in this world we’re living in. If you were not yet bored with what I wrote here, read on what happened to Minnesota Orchestra and listen to the swan song of the Minnesota Orchestra. I hope this never happen to the city where I choose to live.

My photos appear in CD booklet

Glad to see my photos up in re:mix’s debut CD recording booklet!

Re:mix is an interesting and unique ensemble in Singapore’s classical music scene.

You can visit their website www.remix.com.sg

For more info about their debut live recording CD, please visit http://www.remix.com.sg/#/cd/4564045536
You can support them by purchasing the CD from:
All Gramophone outlets in Singapore
at Synwin Marina Square
at SSO Concerts (Singapore Symphony Orchestra)
at Tong Ming Xi allery   One Commonwealth1   Commonwealth Lane #08-28   S149544