REVIEW / CONCERT

DREAMING OUT LOUD

More Than Music

Esplanade Recital Studio/ Last Thursday

More Than Music is a dynamic duo formed by violinist Loh Jun Hong and pianist Abigail Sin.

The name of their partnership comes from the mission that they deliver more than just music in their concerts.

They usually invite another artist to vary and spice up the programme and they always speak to the audience about the music from a personal perspective.

The theme of their latest concert last Thursday was about fantasies and dreams.

The Romantic era was the perfect period for such flights of fancy. Beginning with Schubert’s Sonata In A Major (D.574), the duo generated totally congenial and sweet-toothed tones from both their instruments.

From the seemingly carefree Biedermeier period of Austrian history, there were neither dissonances nor discords in their discourse, but it seemed a pity that only the 1st movement of the sonata was performed.

Next came the thrills and bumps of Beethoven’s Fantasy (Op.77) for piano, arguably one of the great German composer’s strangest works.

It sounded like a patchwork of unrelated themes and ideas punctuated by brusque and abrupt descending scales, and then a set of variations thrown into the mix. That was his idea of humour and pulling a fast one on unsuspecting listeners, which Sin delivered with much conviction and dexterity.

The duo’s special guest this evening was cellist Qin Li-Wei, who opened with Schumann’s Three Fantasy Pieces (Op.73), partnered by Sin on piano. His luscious string tone was a balm to the ears and he did much to vary the dynamics in these short works. Imagination ran high as the two artists engaged in conversational exchanges in the slow central movement, before a tumultuous burst of spirits closed the set.

After the intermission, all three performers gave an absorbing performance of Brahms’ Piano Trio No.1 In B Major (Op.8). This was an early work which the composer later heavily revised.

Qin described it as filled with “youthful passion and mature nostalgia”. Although marked Allegro con brio (fast and with spirit), the 1st movement’s opening was taken at too broad a tempo, something closer to Moderato (moderately paced).

It had to build up to speed sometime and then the tension never slackened. For what could have sounded bloated and dispiriting instead became invigorating. That most lovely of opening themes – a genuine melody to die for – truly shone. The 2nd movement’s Scherzo was perky and playful while the slow movement’s chorale was reverently answered by the strings.

The finale bristled with an undercurrent of excitement. With no let-up in nervous tension, it made for a spectacular ending to the nearly 40-minute-long work.

The performers gave no hint of exhaustion and went for an emotionally intense encore: Astor Piazzolla’s tango Oblivion, which got the audience even more frenzied.

At their next concerts on Nov 4 and 5 at The Arts House, More Than Music will again be offering something extra – booze.

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