Monday, September 01, 2014

Learning Rachmaninov's Music With My Grandson


A Teacher's Day 2014 Posting.
Inspired by my grandson and Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) 2014 activities.

It isn't easy for an 8 year old to watch a live orchestra play *Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27 unless the child has had some classical music background or enjoyed a concert previously.  But there was an audience of children with enthusiastic families who watched our Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) perform at the Republic Polytechnic at Woodlands on Thursday evening at 7.30pm at the institution's Cultural Centre Theatre. My grandson was one of them.

We travelled 40 minutes in dense after-office traffic to reach the concert in record time, just two minutes before Lan Shui (right), the conductor for the evening's concert, walked up to his podium to conduct Rachmaninov's work.  

The SSO On Campus: Pre-Tour Concerts Programme, which was given out at the lobby, helped me to understand in simple terms what the piece was all about.  

For my grandson, I was just glad that he agreed to attend the concert and watch the wonderful musicians performing on stage.  It was his second time listening to a symphony orchestra (read other posting on Jason Lai).

He nearly lasted the full hour and as he showed signs of tiredness about 10 minutes before the end (he came direct from school and a long afternoon) I told him to pay attention for just a little bit more but an encore performance surprised us and we were treated to one in the form of a short March which kept everyone enthralled to the end.  The applause was deafening.

It was well worth the trip.  And, as usual, the audience triumphed as much as the musicians who, with their magnanimity and dedication, were on stage to perform so magnificently.

"Would you like to come again son," I asked him.

"Not tonight," he said sleepily but from his cheeky grin I knew he enjoyed every moment.   At 10pm we had chicken rice in Thompson Road because we didn't have dinner earlier.  

Once again, thank you Lan Shui and the SSO for making our outing such a precious one. And thanks to little J. for agreeing to come at the last minute...

The SSO leaves for London to perform at the Royal Albert Hall on 2nd September, 2014.

A Happy Teacher's Day everyone.

(This posting is dedicated to Ms Chong Y.L. who feels that the date for T.D. should have never been changed.  I agree.)

*A Programme Note about the piece, written by Ruth Rodrigues, can be read by clicking Comments below.
                 Venue: Republic Polytechnic Cultural Centre Theatre @ Woodlands:

The 1,000-Seat Theatre:

Modelled after the famous Kirishima International Concert Hall in Kagoshima, Japan, the auditorium boasts an acoustic design worthy of international music performance. 

A highlight of this auditorium is its ability to turn into a full fledged concert hall capable of full scale musicals in just 45 minutes.

Image 1, 2: SSO Website.
Image 4: Google. 
Image 5:
Information on theatre:


News Flash:
Dazzling Reviews for SSO in London (2nd September, 2014).

Two British newspapers the Guardian and Telegraph gave four out of five stars for SSO's recent outing at the Royal Albert Hall in London. They played the same piece, Rachmaninov's Symphony No 2, with other ones.

It was done in conjunction with the 120th BBC *Proms.  Some members of the audience were even waving the Singapore flag, proud and excited during the orchestra's (98 members) performance led by Shui Lan.

*The Proms is prestigious, done for 8 weeks per year and organised since 1927 by the BBC.


chakap chakap said...

Symphony No.2 in E minor, Op 27


Rachmaninov's command of extended paragraphs and master of carefully controlled suspense. Unifying the entire work, he begins quietly and slowly, with a low string them that reappears later in the main violin melody.

Second movement is lively, brilliantly orchestrated scherzo that unexpectedly makes way for a broad, lyrical melody of characteristic romantic lushness.

The trio mid-section begins with a fugue launched by the second violins. After the scherzo, he introduces similar 'Dies Irae' chant melody that was cited in 'Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini' and 'The Isle of the Dead'.

Third movement,- Adagio - opens with a sighing violin gesture...

(For further description check out 'SSO ON CAMPUS PRE-TOUR CONCERTS' 35 YEARS AT SSO WEBSITE.

chit-chat said...

Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff (Russian: 1 April [O.S. 20 March] 1873 – 28 March 1943) was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. Rachmaninoff is widely considered one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives of Romanticism in Russian classical music.

Early influences of Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and other Russian composers gave way to a personal style notable for its song-like melodicism, expressiveness and his use of rich orchestral colors. The piano is featured prominently in Rachmaninoff's compositional output, and through his own skills as a performer he explored the expressive possibilities of the instrument.

Extract from Wiki

chakap chakap 2 said...

In the 1955 comedy 'The Seven Year Itch', the protagonist (played by Tom Ewell) fantasizes about seducing Marilyn Monroe's character by playing the second piano concerto.

In the 1997 film 'My Best Friend's Wedding', a movement from Rachmaninoff's a capella choral work 'Vespers' is used for the processional in the wedding scene.

The song "I Think of You" from Frank Sinatra's album "Where Are You?" (1957) is based on the second theme in E-flat major from the first movement of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2.
'Frank Sinatra's 1946 single "Full Moon and Empty Arms" is based on another theme from Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2.
'Eric Carmen's first two solo singles, "All by Myself" and "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again", were based on melodies from Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 and Symphony No. 2, respectively.

"All by Myself" was later reinterpreted by Sheryl Crow (1994) and Celine Dion (1996).

In the 2006 movie 'The Devil Wears Prada', the twin daughters of Meryl Streep's character play Rachmaninoff at a recital that she is forced to miss due to inclement weather.

Extracts from Wiki.

MsC said...

I think you too are doing things that make yourself happy. Viewed your SS50... you must have had a roaring good time reliving your youth. At this stage in life to be able to sing and laugh, keep a blog of interests (going to a million viewership???) is great.
You still have 'old' friends and a family to keep you going. Live, laugh. love (I do)--and a day goes by quick enough... sometimes too quickly.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

I share your sentiment about Teacher's Day and have put it in bold red on my latest posting dedicated to you.

MsC said...

From a good friend who knows such humour is my endorphine fix, just like chocolate.

CARL HAMM said...

my schedule was so busy... I just knew I was forgetting to meet someone... of course, now I know that was true

CARL HAMM said...

thank you so much... I really wanted to come to that concert... however, that night I was already invited to accompany the Rythmn Boys to a Hari Raya performance

Yes, I honestly intended to try to meet you this time - things just got too busy near the end of my trip... couldnt do it all

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

I must thank Carl Hamm for his FB notes above as he had the intention of attending the Silver Strings Concert. Carl comes from the U.S.

He has a music blog;

Copy and paste and check him out.

ChatterBox said...

Support the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) 2014.