MPO review: Modernism and romanticism

The final  part of the MPO’s Malaysian composers chamber series, which saw nine works premiered throughout the month of November 2021, was a showcase of the rich diversity of styles of our composers, from the young voices of the adventurous Ainolnaim Azizol and Ilysia Tan, to the well-established gorgeousness of Vivian Chua.

First up is Ilysia Tan, a final year student at Yong Siew Toh Convervatory in Singapore, a highly promising young composer who is quickly developing her musical voice, as shown by her piece Addiction to Perfection for string trio. In this piece Tan contemplates the pressures of competition and for perfection, perhaps a reflection of life in Singapore.

The piece opens with mysterious glissandi on the strings with wonderful textures, before the solo violin takes centrestage with its angular lyricism. This leads to a brief dance-like section that quickly dissolves into a chorale of long notes led by the cello, with the violin climbing ever higher, leading the trio into its final, tumultuous closing section that has lots of surprising twists and turns.

Gerard Salonga conducts the trio Timothy Peters, violin, Fan Ran, viola and Csaba Kőrös, cello in a passionate reading of Tan’s wonderful score, the soloists really bringing out the multitude of emotions of the piece.

Next is Ainolnaim Azizol’s Fragments I for two trumpets, a bold adventure in sound exploration that won the young composer second prize at the Asian Composers League Young Composers Competition 2014 in Japan.

The piece opens with a conversation between the trumpeters playing various strange sounds into long notes which play on the sonic interaction of the two trumpets both harmonically, and spatially with the soloist playing in different directions, crescendoing to a wonderful effect. The piece ends with a series of questioning gestures bouncing between the two players.

Trumpeters Sérgio Pacheco and Jeffrey Missal give a wonderful performance that revels in the playfulness of the piece and the sonic subtleties that Ainolnaim writes for the duo.

The series concludes with Vivian Chua’s Dance of the Wind and Sea, a work that seeks in its first part to “express the free capricious nature of wind”, the second part evoking “images of a calm and bewitching sea” and in the final part, “with the wind and sea playfully dancing with each other to a climatic end”.

Beautifully written, the piece features lovely lyricism of the cello in its first part, and a joyful dance in the second half with plenty of Asian inflections and a touch of jazz. The cellist Csaba Kőrös plays passionately to the delightful piano by Akiko Daniš, both reveling in the delights of Chua’s melodic gifts.

This final part displays the richness of Malaysian music at its best, from experimental to pure joy, its diverse styles all delivered with passion from the amazing and truly committed musicians from the MPO.

- C H Loh

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