YELLOW RIVER CANTATA
Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra
The Joy Chorale (Khor Ai Ming, director)
Chen Hsing An, soprano
Kee Loi Seng, tenor
Jonathan Charles Tay, tenor
Sun Zhao Rui, baritone
Johnny Ng, narrator
Chua Yew Kok, pipa
Derrick Wong Wai Kit, san xian
TSUNG YEH, conductor
Yew Tien Phoon - On the High Seas
George Enescu - Romanian Rhapsody No. 1
P.I. Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture
Xian Xinghai - Yellow River Cantata
A Review by Hawk Liu
Although one would think the main treat of the concert is the Yellow River Cantata, the items in the first half were no push-overs. The concert started briskly with 'On the High Seas' - an amazing piece of work that kept everyone busy playing a few hundred notes a minute. Whether it be the Rhapsody next, or the giant 1812 Overture, the orchestra knew no fears. Every piece was assailed with a good amount of precision and gusto. Maestro Yeh held a tight rein that delivered. Yes there were the occasional bad notes from the horns and trombones and it's unfortunate that wrong notes from the brass would be clearer than those from other instruments! Nevertheless, I salute the horn and woodwind section for the difficult exposed statement of the theme in the early part of the overture. That was dead on!
On an evening where the choir would featured strongly, the bad news was the placement of the choir at the back of the stage - which is a hall design problem. Being at the back, the choir would always be background music. The distance of the choir from the end of the stage was about equal the distance from the edge of the stage to the last row of the expensive section of the audience - need I say more? The choir did get a respite in Yellow River's 7th movement where the sensitive orchestration allowed the choir to come to the fore with clarity. The choir played their role well in all the pieces. I only wish the design of the hall would give them a better chance.....
A Yellow River Cantata performance is always an event to watch and this was no different. With so many factors, there could be many ways to fail a performace. Expectations were well met with a resplendid performance and a display of the nationalistic fervour so important in the work. The miliaristic drive in the music was infectious and I felt like going out to defend Sungei Singapura....hee hee.
All the soloists had beautiful voices. The baritone in Ode to the Yellow River captured the spirit of the music aptly and whose voice was a personal favourite, albeit underpowered in volume. Speaking of which, the soloists were not even in their vocal projections. The soprano was the only voice that matched the presence of the orchestra. Her pathos was felt. The banter of the boatmen in 5th movement was playfully done and the 2 delightful tenors, with the partipation of the choir did not disappoint.
The narrator was miked way, way, way too loud (come on!) but delivery of material was spot on. The dialogue between the narrator and the orchestra was always sensitive. The pipa added it's deft touch to the whole proceeding. My salute goes to Maestro Yeh for drawing all the warm 'Chinese' tones for the orchestra through all the incidental music.
The moment the Cantata finished, I had to run off to the next concert but my mind was still playing the infectious powerful tunes of the Yellow River that evening.