“Notes from the Balcony” – my notes from Circle 1

Caught a concert last Saturday that I thought is worth mentioning.

This is a collaboration between 2 groups of fine instrumentalists. One is a local string quartet that needs no introduction in Singapore: – formed since the 90s, the T’ang Quartet brings a fresh sound to their performances and their rare recording (if I recall correctly, there’s only one). The other is the Boston Brass all the way from the US, performing on a variety of brass instruments: trumpets, euphonium, french horn, trombone & tuba. Percussion students from the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory provided emphatic support (pun fully intended).

A collaboration like this is promising, since the programme suggests that re-arrangement of the original music score is likely. Centred around the theme of “Romeo & Juliet”, the  evening’s spotlight was on Prokofiev’s suite of the same name. 7 movements were performed to the arrangement by one of the Boston Brass’ members (who wasn’t one of the performers on that day – I couldn’t catch the name, does anyone here know?). It was refreshing to hear an arrangement for just 4 strings, 5 brass, piano & percussion bring alive music normally played by an orchestra.

No programme notes were printed for this concert, which I liked – too often they are just a waste of paper! Instead, the evening’s program is aesthetically presented on the promotional flyer (see right). The pieces were also introduced by the 2 emcees of the night – trombonist Lance LaDuke and  cellist Lionel Tan – each charismatic and witty in their own way.

Shakespeare’s tragic tale of the star-crossed lovers transcends the dramatic stage into the realm of music making. Hence there was no shortage of wonderful music to choose from for the evening’s theme. Also on the program were music by Nina Rota (Fanfare for the Prince from Zeffirelli’s movie), Kabalevsky (orchestral suite) and Leonard Bernstein (the American version of the Shakespearean tragedy, i.e.  West Side Story). A lovely choice was the song cycle Juliet’s Letters by Elvis Costello/Brodsky Quartet.

On the whole, I had an enjoyable evening. As an occasional concert-goer, I like to catch innovative collaborations, fresh interpretations or interesting repertoire. This concert scores on all 3 counts.



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