History of cello through music

History of cello through music

Review: Concert The Magnificent Cello

Qin Li-Wei, cello, Bernard Lanskey, piano
National Museum of Singapore/Tuesday

For the penultimate concert in the Music At An Exhibition series at the National Museum, the cello took centre stage.

It was a delightful hour of music that traced the instrument's development in the 18th century. About 80 years spanned the works performed by Chinese-Australian cellist Qin Li-Wei on his trusty 1780 Joseph Guadagnini cello.

Some purists prefer J.S. Bach's Cello Suites to be heard on a baroque cello or the viola da gamba, but this music transcends eras and time.

The opening Prelude of Suite No. 1 In G Major is possibly the most familiar of Bach's music for the instrument, but here it sounded as though freshly minted.

The full-throated baritone coaxed by Qin was both soothing and arresting and, like a master storyteller spinning a yarn, the cellist made you want to care.

The following movements were varied period dances, taken at a faster clip in the Courante and Minuets.

The Sarabande, with its widely spread chords and deeply breathed air, gently held one captive. It was the bounding rhythm of the Gigue that allowed some relaxation in attention.

Qin was joined by Australian pianist Bernard Lanskey, also director of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, in Luigi Boccherini's Cello Sonata No. 6 In A Major.

By now, baroque convention had given way to the sleeker and less contrapuntal lines of the classical tradition. The prayer-like slow opening movement offered the display of an exquisite singing tone, while the ensuing Allegro was martial in character but one which smiled from ear to ear.

Beethoven was made of sterner stuff, and in his Cello Sonata No. 2 In G Minor (Op.5 No. 2), the piano graduated to become an equal partner with the cello.

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