By Jason Sutio (22S06U) and Tang Lanyun (23S05A)
Kammermusik was a performance that reminded us of the warm spirit of live performances. Indeed, this spirit manifested itself as good-natured chuckles that encouraged Chamber Ensemble after an aborted start. The players quickly found their groove and performed smoothly and assuredly — a tone maintained by all performers that day.
The concert started off with the 1st Movement from String Quartet No. 12 in F major, Op 96. Written by legendary composer Dvorak, the piece was nicknamed the American Quartet. He paid homage to the “American spirit” by using the pentatonic scale, the basis of many American folk songs, as an overarching element within the piece.
As the emcees, Megan and Suemin, put it best, Dvorak was “channelling his white girl energy”.
Dvorak, performed by Casey, Brian, Yifei and Beatrice (Left to right)
The performers all played wonderfully, with fluid, dynamic bow movements and well-rehearsed synchrony. This was achieved through countless hours of practice — Zhang Yifei (23S03M) shared that “[her] chamber group went to Casey’s house every Saturday for around 2-3 hours to practise [outside of CCA time].”
Following this was Bacewicz’s 1st Movement from Quartet for 4 violins. “It’s very rare to have pieces written for four violins,” shared Liu Yuchen (23S02A). “Choices were limited for my chamber group.”
Of course, there is a reason behind this — one might expect a violin-only piece to sound one-dimensional. In this case, however, the four violinists played masterfully, using the violin’s distinct tone to their advantage. Together, they wove a tense piece that undulated between slow and fast tempos, keeping the audience constantly at the edge of their seats.
The emcees echoed this sentiment with the following:
“Next, there’s going to be a lot of violins.”
“Then it will be a dangerous piece.”
“A dangerous piece?!”
“Violins? Don’t you mean VIOLENCE?”
The final line was delivered so brazenly that the audience had to laugh —- truly a highlight of the concert.
Shiyun, Yuchen, Lavinia, Nathanelle (left to right) performing Bacewicz
Next on the repertoire was the 1st Movement from String Quartet No. 1 in B minor, Op 50 by Prokofiev. All four lines of music came together to play the final fragment of the melody in the conclusion, making it particularly impressive.
Prokofiev performed by Napin, Suemin, Ker Chong and Vera (left to right)
True to the spirit of saving the best for last, the performance ended with a piece by a composer notorious for difficult pieces — Sarasate. Navarra Op 33, for 2 violins and piano, was performed by Megan and Lavinia, with Isiah accompanying them.
Isaiah, Lavinia and Megan (left to right)
Both violinists were in perfect sync even as the piece demanded quick runs and tricky note changes. Isaiah, on the piano, provided an anchor to the melody as the violinists executed fast-paced flourishes and jumps. Between the intensity of the piece and the virtuosity on display, the audience’s senses were held in rapture.
Megan and Lavinia really loved the piece and decided to take up the challenge of learning it about 1.5 months before the concert. They shared that a lot of discussions went into how to shape the piece, as well as how to accommodate their playing styles to suit each other.
The performers’ hard work did not go unappreciated. Raeeda Ibnit Hossain (22S06A), an audience member, remarked that she “had a tear in her eye” after the performance. Others presented the performers with flowers.
An outpouring of love and support.
The Chamber Ensemble was warmed by the audience. “I think it was an amazing experience for all of us after not performing for so long,” said Yifei. “We really miss interacting with the audience physically and the support we get from seeing our friends in the audience.”
Chamber did face certain setbacks in preparing for the concert. In addition to finding suitable times and places to practise together, publicity was another big struggle due to the huge amount of concerts also happening in the same week.
These setbacks did not hinder the concert experience — when it ended, the audience’s elated cheers filled the Lecture Theatre.
More than anything, Kammermusik reminded us of the magic of live performances, a magic that, for the past two years, had been lost.
Raffles Press congratulates Chamber on Kammermusik, a magnificent concert to celebrate the reopening of physical concerts!