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Brilliant pairing of music and sand artwork at Celestial Pipes concert, Arts News & Top Stories

REVIEW / CONCERT

CELESTIAL PIPES

Winfried Bonig (organ), Lawrence Koh (sand artist)

Victoria Concert Hall/Last Saturday


It was both an especially intelligent or an astonishingly courageous little bit of programming that paired a clipped, exact and economically gestured German organist with a flamboyant, dishevelled and extravagant-gestured Singaporean sand artist. Whatever introduced the pairing about, it was a superb success.

Cologne-based organist Winfried Bonig opened the most recent concert within the occasional Victoria Concert Hall (VCH) Organ Series with solo items by the 2 hottest composers for the organ, Bach and Widor. His enjoying was technically excellent and exact, however he hardly ever ventured into the realms of interpretation, preferring to play what was written and impose little persona on it.

As a end result, Bach’s majestic finale from the St Matthew Passion felt decidedly un-majestic, whereas Widor’s scrumptious Allegro Cantabile (from the Fifth Symphony) buried its head within the particulars. There was, nevertheless, undoubted pleasure in a really brisk however completely articulated account of Widor’s ubiquitous Toccata, whereas Bach’s Sicilienne captured the spirit of the dance.

While this strategy could also be a recipe for dullness, Bonig had one trick up his sleeve.

Unlike any organist I have ever heard play the VCH Klais, he not solely knew the sounds he wished, however revealed them via ingenious use of registration (he wanted two assistants to assist him in that division) and much more intelligent use of switching between the keyboards. What these performances lacked in musical influence, they greater than made up for in sheer aural enchantment.

Holst’s Planets Suite was conceived for huge orchestra. This efficiency noticed it pared right down to a single instrument by the late Arthur Wills. And it was the programme planner who had the good concept of including sand-artist Lawrence Koh to the combo.

Somehow, the concept of the huge eternity of area being recreated by the important ephemerality of sand artwork appeared incongruous. But Koh correctly made no try both to evoke the photo voltaic system nor the astrological beliefs behind Holst’s music.

Instead, he created transient pictures of Roman temples, flowing god-like heroes and, at one level, a magical transformation of a person into an eagle. It fitted the music completely and his timing – ending every motion with a flamboyant flourish – was as beautiful as the photographs he conjured up from his sand field.

Working in sand does, nevertheless, end in pictures which, bathed in a sepia tint, are basically colourless. And that is the place the pairing with Bonig proved actually impressed. His instinctive really feel for organ color embraced Koh’s pictures in a wonderful kaleidoscope of aural results, lingering lengthy within the reminiscence after this actually inspiring concert had completed.

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