Welcome To ThE nEW wORLD
Review by Chang Tou Liang
Of the young orchestras that have sprung up in Singapore over the recent years, The Young Musicians Foundation Orchestra (TYMFO), founded by Darrell Ang and now under the baton of Alvin Seville Arumugam, is one of the more dynamic and promising ones. Its most recent concert demonstrated a level of ambition that is encouraging and more than recommendable.
The Singapore premiere of Toru Takemitsu’s From Me Flows What You Call Time, composed in the 1990s for the 100th anniversary of Carnegie Hall, was a highlight. A helpful preamble was provided by Arumugam, introducing the main themes of the work and the five percussionists. The performance itself was excellent, with the orchestra carving out a sumptuous sound. The opening flute solo from Alvin Chan, reminiscent of Debussy’s Prelude a l’apres-midi dun faune, was pivotal and it was this theme pervaded the 25-minute long work.
The percussionists, Chaiyaphat Prempree, Tan Lee Ying, Chinnabut Kaewkomin, Lim Xing Hong and Kevin Tan, performed on a wide array of instruments including exotic ones like Trinidadian steel-drums, Tibetan singing bowls, rainstick, angklungs and the piece de resistance, - two sets of chimes strung up from the hall’s high ceiling and controlled by multicoloured cords.
They stole the show with an exuberant display, besides blending in seamlessly with the general ensemble. The music was classic Takemitsu – calming, lush, hushed, even when rising to sonorous climaxes which were never became harsh or strident. This was certainly one of the more significant local premieres in recent years, and kudos especially because it came from a young orchestra (rather than the SSO).
The longer second work was Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony, better known as the “New World Symphony”. This is very familiar and over-exposed music, but the orchestra gave it a good shot and the overall impression was one of freshness and vigour. The introduction was taken at a comfortable pace dictated by conductor Arumugam, and when the actual allegro ensued, it was one of urgency and renewed energy. Control was the key, and there was little risk of the movement being overdone or rising to levels of hysteria.
The opening of the famous Largo was also well-handled by the orchestra’s brass chorale, and Rafika Wiryono’s cor anglais solo was a steady and confident one. There were some solo issues in this and the third movement but that did not diminish the stature of the overall ensemble and playing. The bracing finale with its striding theme provided the final gloss, with the brass again leading the charge to the symphony’s heroic close.