Concert Review: The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo-Ma
Thursday 29 April 2010
Esplanade Concert Hall (Singapore)

With reference to their last performance in Singapore around 6 years ago, not only had The Silk Road Ensemble increased in size, they had also taken a greater step and depth into the exploration of instruments, sounds, textures, effects, rhythms, dynamics, distance and spaces.

The evening’s concert opened with Yo-Yo Ma’s ever heart-melting cello solo, followed by the opening piece, Silk Road Suite, of 12 players, engaging themselves in an intimate musical conversation. It’s like a cosy party, whereby the players are relaxed and at ease. Their superb coordinations were beyond words.

Ambush from Ten Sides
, the closing piece was a modern arrangement of a traditional Chinese music.  All members of the group were enjoying and engaging themselves in their own respective roles while the audiences, in turn immersed themselves with what was going on the stage. It could be described as if the performers were each weaving their own thread, yet together, they were weaving a piece of beautiful embroidery. It was a treat to the audiences.

The Blending of the sound effects took place in various ways and emerges into a spectrum of interesting colours. One may prefer to imagine in terms of colours and shapes or even dots and lines, forming or taking shape into an interesting contemporary art work. I was drown in their very colourful percussion and I especially fancy the gong.

Yo-Yo Ma,
with his impeccable technique, is well-known for his solo cello. On his unaccompanied cello, he produced a sound that is beautifully clean, rich, warm, spacious and bold.  The success of the Silk Road ensemble had marked another height of Yo-Yo Ma’s career.

I’m particular impressed with the way the performers were dressed and they way they placed themselves on the stage. It is clear that they were totally relaxed and at ease. The fact that they were free to improvise their own dressing, not only displayed a difference in personality and style, but was also suggestive that, they were free to deliver the same story with their different instruments, via different modes.

This performance had demonstrated a share of talents and cultural practices, together with a fusion of traditions and cultures. This concert also featured an ensemble with an unusual combination and a bold concept, producing an exasperating performance. The performance is fabulous and full of exhilaration, and being unable to expect what is to be expected, the performance itself was hence stretched with unlimited boundaries and many possibilities. Both encores clearly exhibited these qualities.

In the first encore, the Sheng player began flamboyantly. The Indian drum cum the double bass soon improvised with marvellous coordination.

The second encore began with the drum, and ended like a group finale party. The wonderful bonds, the impromptu improvising were fun and contagious.  This group has a superb coordination.

It was indeed an interesting audio and visual experience which is highly versatile and truly inspiring. A performance that is too good to be missed. Bravo.

~ Written by Boon Sin Ler

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