July 4th, 2011
Review by Joseph Resendes
The 3rd Concert of WASBE 2011 featured the Tom Lee Hong Kong Youth NeoWinds Orchestra under the direction of Danilo Delfin. Founded in 2004, this organization is recognized for offering high quality orchestral training to young musicians, and for placing its stamp on the international scene in a short period of time. For many of us who have attended previous conferences, you may recall hearing this fine ensemble perform in Singapore (WASBE 2005). Though, if tonight’s performance was indicative of their musical capabilities in 2005, then without question they exemplified a fine level of musicianship and excellenceat the present WASBE Conference.
The program was well balanced, offering a unique mixture of repertoire that included two world premieres, a masterful solo performance, and even a little history! All of which demonstrated both the versatility of the ensemble, and the musical depth and richness evoked through the compositions, while most certainly captivating a remarkably full concert hall.
Three significant moments highlight this evening’s concert. To start, this was the first concert to present new works at WASBE 2011. In fact, we were presented with two works. Interestingly, both were placed at the beginning of the program, immediately stimulating the curiosities and musical tastes of the audience. Both superbly performed, and well received.
The concert opened with “Three Scenic Sketches of Alishan” by Simon Yau Yuen-hing. This composition was inspired by the natural beauty of Alishan, a region located in southern Taiwan recognized for its rich forests, as well as its “Sunrise”, “Sea of Clouds”, and “Sunset” – three specific elements of nature creatively used by the composer to structure three sections in a one-movement format. As each section passes, the composer thematically represents each mood, sound or scene through careful instrumental choices such as solo instruments (evoking the slow sunrise), canonic and ostinato figures (depicting the Sea of Clouds), and through the integration of famous Taiwanese folk songs.
Lo Hau-Man is an active composer who has written for various media ranging from dance, tv, drama, chamber music, orchestral etc. His world premiere of “Urban Soundscape” was commissioned by the Tom Lee Music foundation in 2011, and was programmed second in this concert. This composition creatively features the percussion section, who perform sounds which reflect the multicultural life and customs of Hong Kong, including sounds from Dai-pei-dong, Mahjong, and the Cantonese Opera. A very visually and audibly stimulating work.
The second highlight of the evening was a unique performance of Gustav Holst’s “2nd Suite in F Minor”. Though most of us have heard, and are quite familiar with the wonderful mastery of this work, the uniqueness of this performance was the decision to perform Holst’s reconstructed first version written in 1911. An excellent prelude to the presentation held immediately after the concert in which Jon Mitchell eloquently presented the historic details about its reconstruction. Though well performed, the choice to perform this piece offered a refreshing taste of history at its finest hour.
The final highlight of this evening’s concert was none other than the magnificent and masterful alto saxophone performance by Dr. Kenneth Tse (University of Iowa) playing “Danza Capriccio” by Ron Nelson. Originally premiered in 1988 with the United States Air Force Band, this piece is truly virtuosic and rhythmically scintillating, demonstrating the instruments’ extended altissimo range, difficult articulations, and lyrical expression. The ensemble wonderfully accompanied the soloist trading motives, while adding the overall excitement of the dance. Dr. Tse truly provided a memorable performance, one deserved of the audiences standing ovation.
The remainder of the program performed by the Tom Lee Hong Kong Youth NeoWinds Orchestra also included excellent performances of “Come, Drink one More Cup of Wine” by Chen Qian, and “Hymn to the Sun – with the Beat of the Mother Earth” by Satoshi Yagisawa. All in all, a truly memorable performance by an exceptionally gifted youth wind orchestra.