Arts Concert Music Preview Singapore

Music Is: The T’ang Quartet Presents The Czech Affair

With a combination of biography, cultural commentary and personal reflection, the third edition of the T’ang Quartet’s 30th Anniversary Season is one flavoured by Eastern Europe. The upcoming show on Oct 4 at Victoria Concert Hall harks back to the T’ang Quartet’s Czech connection, and the ensemble has assembled a programme devoted to Czech music of the 19th and 20th-century – a refreshing detour from the old world classics, representing a part of the Quartet’s illustrious 30-year musical journey.

First violinist Ng Yu-Ying and second violinist Ang Chek Meng were mentored by former Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s violist Jiri Heger from Czech Republic. He taught the two members during their formative years as musicians. Jiri, who played an instrumental role in the T’ang Quartet’s development, went on to help the ensemble record their 2005 debut album, The Art of War, as well as the 2006 Made in America album (featuring Jiri), in Prague.

On Oct 4, classical music fans will be treated to a stunning fare of quartet masterpieces by three Czech composers – Josef Suk, Antonin Dvořák and Pavel Haas.

Yu-Ying says: “The programme speaks a common language of the rhythms, novel harmonies and lyrical melodies from Eastern European folk traditions.”

The evening begins with Suk’s nationalistic Czech piece, Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale “Saint Wenceslas” Op.35a. Suk, who studied under Dvorak, is the turn-of-the-century composer, and one of the leading composers in Czech Modernism.

Stunning, contemplative as well as emotional and nostalgic, the four-part polyphonic work was written in 1914 in World War I in a time when the Czechs hoped to gain independence from the Austrian Empire, of which they were part of. The composer wanted to ignite the Czech nationalist movement, while the old Bohemian chorale on which it was based on honours Svatý Vaclav (St. Wenceslas), the patron Saint of Bohemia. “The second piece by composer Antonin Dvořák is a well-loved one,” says Chek Meng of The String Quartet in F Major, Op.96 “American”. “This work is very much idiomatic of his Czech roots but he combined the best of Czech folk tunes with New World spirituals and drum rhythms. It’s one of the most popular works in the string quartet repertory.

Post intermission, the Quartet turns their attention to the third piece – Pavel Haas’ String Quartet No. 2 “From the Monkey Mountains”. “This piece was chosen in our programme as it is considered to be one of Haas’ first high points of his oeuvre,” adds cellist Zihao. The Czech-Jewish composer, who was greatly influenced by his teacher Leo Janácek, combined the neo-classicist techniques of Igor Stravinsky with a very personal adaptation of jazz elements as well as the melodic and harmonic features Czech folk music and Jewish synagogue music.

The Cezch Affair plays on 4th October 2022 at Victoria Concert Hall. Tickets available here

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