The Singapore Symphony Orchestra knew it was onto a good thing when this digital concert was sold as “A Little Mozart With Chloe Chua”. The 13-year-old violinist had become a household name and internet sensation after tying for first place at the 2018 Yehudi Menuhin International Competition for Young Violinists. Her public concerto engagements has hitherto been wisely limited to Vivaldi concertos (and Bach’s Double Violin Concerto), and it was time for her to try out more extended repertoire.

Chloe Chua in rehearsal
© Singapore Symphony Orchestra

There was to be no Beethoven or great Romantic concertos as yet, but Mozart’s early Violin Concerto no. 2 in D major proved to be an excellent choice. Wolfgang Amadeus was just a few years older than Chua when he composed his violin concertos, meant as personal solo showcases. His conceptions were simple but not simplistic, and the scope for virtuosity more of an implicit rather than explicit kind. 

To this, Chua offered a purity of spirit and sense of wonderment, one expressed in the sheer joy of the music rather than basking in outward display. A voluminous tone allied with perfect intonation were apparent from the outset, and this was further distinguished by a natural ability to effortlessly shape singing phrases and respond in one accord with the orchestra. 

The cadenzas in all three movements flowed seamlessly and when a higher level of technical nous was called for, this was accomplished with complete assurance and total lack of affectation. The central movement’s Andante became a masterclass of rarefied and refined playing. To call her a mere wunderkind would be selling her short, for Chloe Chua is already a bona fide true artist.

Hans Graf, Chloe Chua and the SSO
© Singapore Symphony Orchestra

The live Internet viewership fell a little when it came to Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. This was the very symphony with which Hans Graf made his debut with the SSO in 2015 as a guest conductor. The good rapport and notices engendered at that concert, reinforced by further visits, eventually led to Graf being invited to become Lan Shui’s successor at the orchestra’s helm. 

Proof of wisdom in that momentous decision would be found in this well-disciplined but exciting reading of the symphony. The first movement’s slow introduction built up expectantly for the ensuing Allegro section (marked Vivace), which leapt into urgency and brio without apology. The exposition repeat that followed was no less invigorating. The second movement’s variations were taken at a fair lick, making one wonder whether this symphony has a true slow movement. No, actually, since this was marked Allegretto, and lively as it could possibly be. The last thing one wanted was for it to drag. 

The last two movements considerably upped the ante, but one was not made to feel rushed or being hectically driven. The Scherzo (marked Presto) had lightness in step, giving the illusion of it being swifter than it actually was. Some balance was provided by the contrasting Trio, which gave the semblance of holding one’s horses. There was however no let off in the finale, hurtling furiously and unerringly to the symphony’s conclusion. No one would dance to this, Wagner’s description of an “apotheosis of the dance”, but there should have been vociferous applause... had there been an audience in attendance. With the Covid lockdown being gradually lifted in Singapore, there soon will be. 

This performance was reviewed from the Sistic video stream