Preview: Inkpot interviews Ng Pei-Sian and Igor Yuzefovich for OMMProm’s Phantasia
Come 17 January, Singapore Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Igor Yuzefovich and Principal Cellist Ng Pei-Sian will perform Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantasia with the Orchestra of the Music Makers (OMM) led by Maestro Chan Tze Law in the 5th edition of OMMProm.
Dubbed by the composer as a ‘Musical Fantasy for Violin, Cello and Orchestra’, this performance of Phantasia follows the success of the 2013 Singapore premiere of LLoyd Webber’s Variations, where Ng first appeared as soloist.
Aileen Tang spoke to Igor Yuzefovich and Ng Pei-Sian to learn more.
TFI: Pei-Sian and Igor, thank you for this exclusive interview.
To start off, what were your thoughts being invited to play with the OMM for this concert?
Pei-Sian (pictured, right): I was very happy when Maestro Chan Tze Law invited me to perform Phantasia with Igor. Our first collaboration back in 2013 [Ed: playing another Lloyd Webber piece, the Variations] was a really fun experience and I remember feeling extremely comfortable and relaxed working with everybody. I felt great passion and excitement to be making music with those around me. It also helped that a couple of my own students had joined the cello section and my mate [Chan] Yoong-Han was leading the orchestra.
Igor: I’ve heard wonderful things about the OMM since my arrival in Singapore, so being featured in one of their concerts is certainly a welcome proposition. In fact, I’ve played under Maestro Chan Tze Law before – on my first visit to Singapore as a student at the Peabody Conservatory, I played with him at the end of a week-long collaboration with the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Orchestra. Little did I know that almost 10 years later, fate would bring me back to Singapore!
You have played together numerous times with the SSO. What do you anticipate about playing a concerto with each for the first time?
Igor: Well, I love playing with Pei-Sian. He is a fabulous cellist and an absolutely natural musician. In many ways, I feel our musical instincts are often very similar, and we’ve found it’s quite easy for us to blend our sounds.
Pei-Sian: I am very excited to be performing with Igor. He is a wonderfully refined violinist who possesses good control over musical taste and restraint. I have had the opportunity to perform violin and cello duos with him in the past and if working on Phantasia is anything like that experience, we are in for a great deal of fun!
Igor, what are your expectations of this new collaboration with OMM, and what do you think will be your biggest challenge?
Igor (pictured, left) With every new collaboration there are emotions of excitement, wonder and intrigue. I think it’s fair to say that every artist goes through a circle of thoughts before the first rehearsal with any orchestra, [but my] most recurring thought is: What new ideas or interpretations can I offer that these musicians have not heard a thousand times before?
Luckily, Phantasia is not a piece that’s been performed often, so I think Pei-Sian and I have that on our side. As for challenges, I prefer to deal with them as they appear. We have challenges in every aspect of our art form – how to play in tune, how to make a beautiful sound, how to interpret the ideas of the composers, how to bring something new and fresh to the ears of the listeners. If we don’t continuously challenge ourselves, then we are not being true to our passion.
Andrew Lloyd Webber has been described as nothing more than an ‘inspired tunesmith’, suggesting that his works are inferior to that of the usual symphonic repertoire. What do you think?
Igor: Everyone is entitled to their opinions of course, and classical music is no stranger to controversies. Just look at the world premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring! But to compare a composer famous for writing music for Broadway shows with other composers from the Classical Music genre simply wouldn’t be fair.
Pei-Sian:I think it takes a very talented composer to write music that can connect and entertain so many people across the world and have staying power.
Do you think the Phantom is a brilliant yet cruel and selfish man who just wants his own way, or a misunderstood tragic hero?
Igor: Perhaps the Phantom really is a misunderstood character, personifying the duality of mankind.
Pei-Sian: The Phantom is all of the above. His fantastical life led him to do terrible things in the quest to love and be loved in return. He finds redemption however.
Can you sum up in 3 words what the audience can expect to look forward to on 17 Jan?
Love. Passion. Tragedy.
Melodies, Masks and More!
OMMProm: Phantasia will be at the Esplanade Concert Hall on 17 Jan at 5pm. Also played will be an orchestral fantasy from ‘La Bohème’ and the Suite from Strauss’ ‘Der Rosenkavalier’. Tickets at $15 (standard) and $8 (concession) are available from www.sistic.com.sg