Thursday, June 23, 2005

A Date With Moscow Virtuosi

It was this concert tonight which brought me back to life again after being dead for the past few weeks. A few months back, the posters and advertisements in the newspaper and websites for this chamber orchestra, Moscow Virtuosi, didn't catch my attention at all. Yes, I do love orchestral music, yet I merely treated it as another similar performance like that of our Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO). It was until last week when I was attracted to one of the pieces (Concerto for Two Violins, Strings and Continuo in D minor, BWV 1043, by Bach) they were going to play tonight that I went to get the ticket for their performance. Little did I know that that particular concerto was the one which least impressed me tonight...

It was the very first time that live orchestra music touched me in such an intimate way. I'm sure the rest of the audience experienced it too, from the responses they gave. It did took them a while to warm up, but in the later pieces, this orchestra sure proved themselves to be one of the finest chamber orchestra in the world. For the first piece, they played Bach's concerto. The solo violinists displayed their sheer virtuosity in the two outer movements, alternating the fugal theme with the orchestra with unbelievable perfection, without sounding too rushed like that in Hilary Hahn's recording. The slow movement was wonderfully expressive, though I'd prefer Hahn's rendition of it. At times when the soloist, Vladimir Spivakov (also the founding member and chief conductor of this orchestra), wasn't playing, he was deeply immersed in the music, dancing subtly or raising his head and staring at the magnificent architecture of the Esplanade Concert Hall.

The last piece excluding the four short encoures they played tonight was the peak of the night. It was the Symphony No. 45 in F# minor, "Farewell" by Franz Joseph Haydn. This orchestral piece was written by Haydn to request subtly for a rest for his musicians, who worked in the summer home of the prince. The orchestra consists of only two oboes, two Frech horns and strings, the only piece where the brass and woodwind instruments came in. I love the first three movements, but it was the fourth movement, Finale, which transformed the night. As the piece was being played, members of the orchestra members left their seats one by one to go backstage, together with the lights being dimmed. While all this stage business was going on, the remaining musicians carried on playing that wonderful adagio with perfect calmness. After about three quarters of the musicians have left, Vladimir Spivakov, the conductor in this piece, picked up his Antonio Stradivarius violin and played the first violin part, until the piece ended with one first violin player and Vladimir Spivakov himself. Just before the last notes, the whole hall just blacked out. That's such a wonderful effect, with the spirit of the piece being brought out so wonderfully. From that piece to the four encoures, the orchestra was given a standing ovation and delightful cheers from members of the audience.

This is the first orchestral concert I watched whereby the orchestra truly deserved a standing ovation. This is a perfect example of the conductor was totally transparent, allowing the spirit of the composer at the time of composing this piece flow to the audience without adding any extra ingredients. It was just as if I was at the night when Haydn conducted the orchestra. Yes, generous is the word. In studying music, he had took so much of music into him and tonight, he has given all that he could give to the audience through his music, unlike some other performers who just treat performing like just another performance. Generous musicians are what the world needs. I've been so desensitised by the army life in the past few months that I have lost the feeling of being alive. Thank God, for putting the burden on me to go for this concert. I've learnt a lot and shall put in what I've learnt into my music.

Playing from the heart...

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