Singapore Mendelssohn, Mozart, Krommer, Brahms: Singapore National Youth Orchestra, Mariam Adam & Benny Lim (clarinet), Jonas Alber (conductor), Esplanade Concert Hall, Singapore 24.11.2015 (RP)
Mendelssohn: Hebrides Overture, “Fingal’s Cave”, Op. 26
Mozart: Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622
Krommer: Rondo from Concerto for 2 Clarinets and Orchestra, Op. 35
Brahms: Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73
This concert marks the culmination of an exceptional partnership between LANXESS, the German specialty chemicals company, and the Singapore National Youth Orchestra (SNYO). Since 2010, the LANXESS SO CLASSIC has provided a platform for the development of Singapore’s next generation of classical musicians. Approximately 1200 students have benefited from the program which brings world-renowned musicians to Singapore to work with the orchestra. There is also a cultural exchange program whereby SNYO musicians travel abroad to participate in masterclasses and concert/study tours. Conductor Jonas Alber and clarinetist Marian Adam were the visiting artists this year, bringing with them international reputations and ̶ just as crucial ̶ an obvious delight in working with the SNYO musicians.
Composed when Felix Mendelssohn was just 20 and traveling around Europe to broaden his horizons, the Hebrides Overture was inspired by his visit to Fingal’s Cave on the west coast of Scotland. This performance started quietly, almost tentatively, but gradually coalesced, gathering momentum as it progressed. The clarinet solos were a highlight, and Samuel Chan and Ashley Estrop played with equally fine tone and flare. They are a team.
Mariam Adam has crafted a singular career as a soloist and chamber musician, performing around the world with Imani Winds, a woodwind quintet of which she is a founding member. She cuts a striking figure on stage: imagine a modern day Medea, whose passions are poured into the emotion-laden sound emanating from an instrument, rather than a more tragic outlet. Her technique is impeccable, her virtuosity dazzling. The Adagio of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A major is one of his most graceful and poignant creations. Adam turned it into a lament of great beauty. Sadly however, its final note was cut off abruptly by the audience’s applause. That was a pity. Throughout, the SNYO’s strings provided a sprightly accompaniment under Alber’s careful watch.
There was just one problem with the Rondo from Franz Krommer’s double clarinet concerto: it was too short. The sight and sound of Mariam Adam and Benny Lim playing together were so enjoyable that you wanted it to go on and on. Krommer constructed the Rondo so that the interplay between the two clarinetists is all but seamless. They were as one here: it was all but impossible to tell who was playing as they effortlessly tossed the melodies back and forth. Lim is a second-year student at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts School of Music in Singapore. (As a foreigner, I find it fascinating that he could serve his compulsory national service playing with The Singapore Police Force Band.) Lim has performed with local orchestras and wind ensembles both here and abroad. Just one of many, Benny Lim is both a Singaporean and a LANXESS success story.
Brahms’ Second Symphony filled out the program, bringing the concert to a joyous conclusion. Alber drew a spirited performance from his young charges, with his impeccable baton technique an asset here, as it had been throughout the concert. The sound emanating from the first violin section was particularly vibrant as they propelled the music forward with their incisive bowing. Brahms makes great demands on the principal horn, and Mindy Chang delivered the goods. The audience agreed, with applause pouring down upon the fine young horn player when Alber afforded her a solo bow.
I have been to similar concerts when I thought the definition of youth was being stretched a bit, but not so here. The players came from over 70 schools, both public and private, and although a few were from Singapore’s conservatories and universities, the majority were from the secondary and international schools. What a remarkable opportunity is afforded these young musicians by the LANXESS SNYO CLASSIC, and such great good fortune for all that Jonas Alber and Mariam Adam were on hand. It is important to train musicians, but just as much so to create new audiences. With the Esplanade Concert Hall full of young people, such compelling and engaging musicians are a fine way to go about it.