Posted by: danguard | June 12, 2009

Day 5 – A Night at the Esplanade

Well, not much to report on regarding the daytime’s activities. Going through all these interviews is proving quite taxing, it is really quite tiring having to concentrate so closely for so long transcribing exactly what’s being said, particularly with the dialectical differences, a process not being helped by poor original recordings (either too close to the mic and too loud and muffled, or with too much background sound going on, speeding cars, etc. – God knows where they were originally recorded), or an interviewer who keeps interrupting and clearly considers himself the Singapore version of Jeremy Paxman rather than a professional oral historian! On a couple of occasions the interviewee would be about to say something interesting regarding the navy, only for the interviewer to pull him back and ask something boring about the civil service or teaching instead! Grrr…. At least I now know how NOT to conduct interviews.

MoscowYuriChoirAs I previously mentioned, I went to the Esplanade in the evening to watch the Moscow State Chamber Choir and Chamber Orchestra Moscow Soloists, conducted by and starring Yuri Bashmet, Ukrainian violist. The venue really is fantastic, inside as well as out. Asthetically pleasing throughout, the main concert hall resembles a cross between an upturned Noah’s arc, and a wooden cathedral, and the acoustics are excellent, I’d say better than the Albert Hall’s from past experience. During the interval I wandered out to the bar to grab a swift beer, which enjoys fantastic views overlooking the marina which is really quite spectacular lit up at night.

I really enjoyed most of the programme. It opened with Stravinsky’s Concerto in D for strings, which sounds very contemporary despite it being over 60 years old. The first movement, Vivace, really stood out, a frantic, bustling piece, which conjured up images of a busy metropolis such as Singapore, and with a fantastic recurring discordant motif which feels like it’s always teetering on the brink of crashing but remains beautifully balanced throughout.

Next up was Brahms’ Adagio in B minor for viola and strings. Here Bashmet takes centre stage, and his performance is mesmerising, incessant, and emotive. The dynamism of his viola and the intricate interplay between the cello and viola sections provides the perfect counterpoint. After that was Three Film Scores for Strings by Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu. Here the highlight was the first piece, Music of Training and Rest from the film Jose Torres,which possessed a great jazz rhythm reminiscent of Gershwin and Bernstein. The manner in which the cellists were transformed into the role of jazz-blues bassists with the violas replicating sharp off-beat jazz piano notes conveyed a really impressive and innovative arrangement.

After the interval was Mozart’s Exsultate, jubilatewith the first choral appearance of the night in the form of a female soprano. To be honest, I found this piece a bit tedious. It was fairly standard Mozart, and the music remained shackled by the piece’s emphasis on the singer. I kept flashing back to my comment the other night regarding the annoying warbling stylings of current wannabe pop singers, as to be honest, what the soprano was doing was basically the same thing but a little bit more elaborate, in Latin, and in a higher key. It was essentially just warbling though of a different kind, but because it is masked behind the respectable face of classical music it is therefore obscured from similar public criticisms. I thought it only fair to redress the balance.

The programme finished with Mass No.2 in G Major for mixed chorus and stringsby Schubert, and saw the full Moscow State Chamber Choir take to the stage. The night ended on a high, and the third movement struck a particular chord with me, with it’s minimal but strident string tones, and deep, ominous choral chanting, it had something of a Soviet vibe to it. It reminded me a little of (and this is where I lose any credibility as a serious classical reviewer, if I hadn’t already done so by use of the word ‘vibe’ in the last sentence)… the film score to The Hunt to Red October.

And on that bombshell, I think I’d best say goodnight.



  1. Great review Dan, although I didn’t really understand that bit in the last 5 paragraphs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: