Review: SSO Strings Sing in Long-awaited Return to Botanic Gardens | The Flying Inkpot
Arts@SBG: NAC-ExxonMobil Concert in the Gardens presents Singapore Symphony Orchestra
TCHAIKOVSKY I. Pezzo in forma di Sonatina and II. Walzer from Serenade in C major, Op. 48
BACH II. Air from Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068
VIVALDI Spring from The Four Seasons, Op. 8, No. 1
BARBER Adagio for Strings
GRIEG I. Prelude from Holberg Suite
Encore: KELLY TANG Tian Mi Mi
Dai Ailin, violin
Strings from the Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Jason Lai, conductor
6pm, 9 Jan 2022
Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage at Singapore Botanic Gardens
Review by Derek Lim
It’s been a long time in the making, and maybe things aren’t quite back to what they were before. But the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s (and anyone’s) first Concert in the Gardens since you-know-what hit and the evening’s fresh balmy air, there is a sense that we’re finally getting back to normal.
Starting with the first two movements of Tchaikovsky’s well-loved (both by the composer as well as audiences) Serenade for Strings, conductor Jason Lai led the SSO in a lively rendition that had the musicians raring to go in a potboiler – not a word you’d generally associate with the serenade, I’d admit – of a performance of the first movement ‘Pezzo’ that had the lower strings digging deep and the others singing passionately. The SSO strings continued with a Waltz that was more sunny and freewheeling than usual, perfectly reflecting the lovely weather at the Gardens and followed that with a performance of Bach’s lovely Air on G string which showed grace, poise and hushed beauty.
Keeping to the generally sunny theme was 16-year-old first prize winner in the Violin Artist Category of the National Piano and Violin Competition 2021, Dai Ailin’s performance of Spring from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. It’s difficult to put a new spin on this oft-played piece without sounding potentially outlandish, but her performance was always musical and well-behaved.
Taken rather romantically, there were many moments of aching beauty in this familiar music from Dai’s generally sweet-sounding violin. While it is now deep winter in Venice where the music originated, this was a performance that warmed the hearts of the Botanic Gardens audience, with some attractive embellishments toward the end of the second movement and accurate, agile finger work.
Barber’s famous Adagio for Strings, arranged from his String Quartet, was a somber change of pace – perhaps in this context a meditation on the lives lost in these two years, though taken at a moderate tempo, it didn’t feel at all like a dirge. The passionate, full-throated climax elicited a spattering of (premature) applause from the audience – who can blame them? The only ruffled feathers were those of the native red jungle fowl, who were roused to resplendent flight in the following Grieg piece.
Sans drinks, food and pets, this was a Concert in the Gardens that in many ways was less casual than its many predecessors, where latecomers would find every last inch of grass covered by picnic mats, champagne flutes and picnic baskets were a common sight. But like the playful encore piece, Kelly Tang’s Tian Mi Mi, where the pizzicato strings imitate Chinese plucked strings, it was lighthearted, never outstaying its welcome and was thoroughly enjoyed by the appreciative audience. More, please!