The Philharmonic Winds Singapore

Leonard Tan, Music Director

Timothy Reynish, Guest Conductor

Ko-Ichiro Yamamoto Trombone Soloist

Percy Grainger (1882 – 1961)Marching Song of Democracy
Wong Kah Chun (* 1986)Krakatoa
John Mackey (*1973)Harvest for Trombone and Wind Ensemble
Adam Gorb (* 1958)Farewell
Luis Serrano Alarcón (* 1972)Marco Polo; the Cathay Years

Concert 5 was given by Philharmonic Winds, and as Principal Guest Conductor I suspect that I should not give what is bound to be a biased review of a concert in which I conducted. I shall reprint the review of the same programme given a week earlier in the superb acoustics of The Esplanade, Singapore, and content myself with a few comments. The Grainger is magnificent, one of my favourite pieces, and a suitable celebration of the 50th anniversary of his death. What an object lesson to young composers in fluidity of phrasing, metre and harmonies, and what a shame that more Grainger was not programmed. Wong Kah Chun is off to USA to study; Krakatoa  was very much a student exercise, and he will write much better pieces for us in future. John Mackey is an important new figure in American band music, but I find only the slow section of any interest, the beginning and ending is based on a four note motto which is repetitive and aggressive ad nauseam. It was wonderfully played by Ko Yamamoto and rapturously received.

Marco Polo, the Cathay Years, just bowled me over. I have enjoyed everything I have heard by Luis Serrano Alarcon, and this fusion of traditional Chinese instruments with the design of a tone-poem won me over at the first hearing. Like Adam  Gorb, Luis uses the wind orchestra in a totally lyrical way, wonderful solo writing for everyone, and although his style is firmly romantic, yet he has a fluidity of phrasing and harmonic movement which means that even obvious melodic material never palls. I think that he is a major figure, and this was one of the great discoveries of the conference, well worth the journey. The Chinese instruments add extraordinary colours, but they are cued in for Western equivalents. I have posted a review from The Straits Times of this concert.