Arts Music Review

Review: Bruch Violin Concerto and Mahler 5 by Singapore Symphony Orchestra

Dubbed a violin prodigy in Singapore, Singapore Symphony Orchestra Artist-In-Residence Chloe Chua performed Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the orchestra this March. Known for his impassioned melodies and searing energy, Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 has been described as the composer’s “richest and the most seductive”, this particular concerto requires great control and pacing, both of which came through in the performance.

Chloe emerged onstage and makes her entrance to great applause from the audience in anticipation of her performance. Dressed in a white and red dress, Chloe is ready to take the lead in the performance, and exudes class as she begins. One of Chloe’s strongest attributes is being able to keep her focus at all times, the music smooth and clear. Even when she takes her bow off her violin, she remains in touch with the music, always concentrating, and allowing the music to be soothing and forthcoming.

Exuding a calm yet confident presence, Chloe brings out the subtle nuances of the piece, not only in terms of its power, but also her own demeanour. At the same time, perhaps due to her youth, Chloe has yet to find her own character on stage. One hopes that she learns to enjoy the process and the stage more, rather than breathe a sigh of relief after each stanza, each act or each piece, as if thankful she got through it. The audience tonight were clearly fans, and with their support, when Chloe finally finds herself, it is likely that the emotions in each piece will be further brought out.  

For now though, Chloe manages well enough to capture the work’s serenity and grace. This was a challenging piece to do, with so many crescendos and decrescendos changing up the pace throughout the piece. We also see conductor Lawrence Renes showing exemplary control of the orchestra, allowing the atmosphere to feel almost triumphant when they finally join Chloe.

In following Chloe’s artistic journey, we can see how she is gradually gaining more confidence as the piece goes on. There is a sense of joy when we hear the whole orchestra coming together, everyone there to enjoy playing together and enjoying the music. No longer is there as much performance pressure felt, as the music begins to flow.

The good chemistry with the orchestra and the warm audience brought out the best of this piece. In a rousing finale, there was plenty of technical mastery shown, in terms of the control and the sophistication of the performance. But have we seen the best of Chloe? Has she found her personality on stage? Only time can tell, as she continues down her path, learning and growing, and hopefully, blossoming into a truly magnificent performer on stage. 

Bruch Violin Concerto and Mahler 5 by Singapore Symphony Orchestra ran from 2-3 March at the Esplanade Concert Hall. More information available here

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