ARNALDO COHEN, piano
“This is Liszt-playing on a grand scale, putting Cohen among the greats. He yields little to Horowitz’s famous RCA recording in color and temperament. Cohen mingles narrative and textual clarity with a musical maturity and heady virtuosity in the Richter class.” (Gramophone)
The Brazilian-born pianist Arnaldo Cohen, now living in the United States, has long had a reputation for astonishing his audiences with the musical authority and blistering virtuosity of his performances. He has appeared regularly as soloist with major orchestras, such as the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. His solo recitals everywhere draw enthusiastic crowds of cognoscenti. Critics, too, marvel at his mixture of musical complexity and élan.
“A model of balance and imagination" was Steve Smith’s verdict in his review of Mr. Cohen’s Town Hall recital in The New York Times.
Mr. Cohen performed Brahms’ Concerto No. 1 in D Minor with the Milwaukee Symphony and was reviewed by Tom Strini of the Milwaukee Journal: “The combination of technical command and expressive insight he demonstrated Friday is every musician’s goal."
After performing a recital in Philadelphia, Mr. Cohen drew the following praise from distinguished critic David Patrick Stearns of the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Cohen has the smarts, the emotional presence, and the technique of a major Chopin interpreter. Unlike many similarly exciting pianists, Cohen has built a loyal public with his annual Philadelphia Chamber Music Society concerts by presenting new variations on himself at every visit."
And, in the words of no less a piano authority than former New York Times critic the late Harold C. Schonberg: "First of all there is his sound – a burnished, unforced bronze-like sound somewhat in the Rachmaninoff manner. In a day when so many pianists sound bleak and percussive, Cohen produces a big sound that never splinters and is capable of any kind of nuance. He understands the pedals. He has a world-class technique. His playing, color and all, has text-book clarity. And he understands the Romantic style."
After winning First Prize at the 1972 Busoni International Competition, in Italy, Mr. Cohen scored a triumph at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Soon after he moved to London and went on to build a repertoire of some 50 concertos and to perform with such orchestras as the Royal Philharmonic, the Philharmonia, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, and the Santa Cecilia Orchestra of Rome, collaborating with conductors Kurt Masur, Kurt Sanderling, Klaus Tennstedt, and Yehudi Menuhin (who described Cohen as “one of the greatest pianists I have ever heard").
“An underground swell of admiration, if not quite a cult, has developed around this dapper musician", wrote critic Allan Ulrich. “This is a fabulous talent". (San Francisco Chronicle).
As a former professional violinist, teacher of physics, mathematics, cocktail pianist, and avid soccer fan, Mr. Cohen’s unconventional background contributed to the aura of surprise and discovery that attended virtually every one of his public performances, a quality that greatly enhanced his success in the major concert halls of Europe and later the United States. Mr. Cohen’s interpretations have been greeted with such sweeping accolades as “magisterial”, “thrilling”, “intrepid”, “exultant”, and “trenchant”, all of which are a metric of Cohen’s extraordinary pianism. In many cases his playing has on different occasions drawn favourable comparisons with the work of such very different artists as Richter, Horowitz, Arrau, Argerich, Serkin, Gieseking, Lupu, and Kissin, a testament to the protean nature of his musicianship and virtuosity. Despite these comparisons, however, Mr. Cohen has developed a voice entirely his own.
Mr. Cohen has performed in solo recitals throughout the United States. One of his recitals, in Chicago, ignited the highest praise from John von Rhein, senior music critic of the Chicago Tribune: "He is the greatest pianist you’ve never heard of. Cohen’s sensational recital added his name to the list of important performers who have made their local debuts before going on to become household names. If there is any justice in the world, he will do the same."
In addition to his recital and orchestral appearances, Mr. Cohen has dedicated himself to the art of chamber music. For five years, he was a member of the prestigious Amadeus Trio with violinist Norbert Brainin and cellist Martin Lovett. He has also performed with many string quartets, including the Lindsay Quartet, Chillingirian Quartet, Orlando Quartet, and the Vanbrugh Quartet.
Mr. Cohen’s recordings generated equally accolades from the press. "This is Liszt-playing on a grand scale, putting Cohen among the greats. He yields little to Horowitz’s famous RCA recording in color and temperament. Cohen mingles narrative and textual clarity with a musical maturity and heady virtuosity in the Richter class." (Jeremy Nicholas, Gramophone)
"These performances pack a tremendous visceral punch but are among the most musically intelligent recordings of these celebrated pieces to grace the catalogue. Cohen shows how a magisterial Lisztian can shape lyrical content and play up contrasts of texture while shaping a firmly coherent musical structure. There are few pianists who can touch him when he hauls out the heavy technical artillery in Rhapsody Espagnole’s breathtaking runs, whirlwind octaves and all." (John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune)
"Like Claudio Arrau, Cohen fully savours the dramatic implications (Sonata in B Minor) within slower, rhetorical sequences, yet raises the scintillation factor threefold in the infamous octave passages enough to run neck and neck alongside Martha Argerich’s molten temperament." (Jed Distler, BBC Music Magazine)
BIS release of Mr. Cohen’s recording of the two Liszt Piano Concertos and the Totentanz with the Sao Paulo State Symphony Orchestra was commented by Jeremy Nicholas from Gramophone stating that "for unapologetic bravura combined with intimate poetry, a complete empathy with Liszt’s intentions and full-blooded recorded sound, Cohen and his cohorts are hard to beat."
Mr. Cohen’s pioneering CD, “Three Centuries of Brazilian Music” on the BIS label has also been widely applauded by critics, with Bryce Morrison of Gramophone praising Cohen as “an intrepid explorer and immaculate pianist”, and Jessica Duchen of the International Piano Quarterly commenting, “Arnaldo Cohen’s playing is technically superb and full of the foot-tapping impetuosity of Brazilian dance, but also projects a sense of affection and nostalgia that appeals straight to the heart. So this disc is a triumph on several counts: as a performance, as a manifesto for Brazilian classical music and as a valuable resource to those wanting to explore this overly-neglected repertoire."
Mr. Cohen’s previous recordings for other labels such as IMP Classics, Naxos and Vox, all of which were awarded high praise, have included classic performances of works by Liszt, Schumann, and Brahms. "I know of no modern recording of the Brahms-Handel Variations that approaches this one", wrote piano authority Harold Schonberg in a review of Cohen’s recording of the work for the Vox label.
An artist of diverse interests and talents, Mr. Cohen began his musical studies at the age of five, graduating from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro with an honours degree in both piano and violin, while also studying for an engineering degree. He went on to become a professional violinist in the Rio de Janeiro Opera House Orchestra to earn a livelihood while continuing piano studies with Jacques Klein, a disciple of the legendary American pianist, William Kapell. At the urging of Klein, Mr. Cohen pursued further training in Vienna with Bruno Seidlhofer and Dieter Weber.
Mr. Cohen is the recipient of a fellowship awarded by the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and taught at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He was awarded the “Ordem do Rio Branco”, a commendation given by the Brazilian Government for his contribution to culture and recently, the “Ordem do Ipiranga”, the highest commendation given by the State of São Paulo, Brazil.
In the last forty years, he has given numerous masterclasses in some of the most distinguished academic institutions around the world as well as serving as a jury member of many prestigious International Piano Competitions such as Chopin, in Poland, Van Cliburn in the USA and Busoni, in Italy. Mr. Cohen has written many music related articles and reviews for several respected Brazilian publications.
Mr. Cohen is a Distinguished Professor at the prestigious Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University, where he has been teaching since 2004.
QIN LI-WEI, cello
“Mr. Qin has a great deal going for him, including a meltingly beautiful tone, flawless centered intonation and an ironclad technique” (New York Times)
“Aside from an extraordinary technical fluency, he has a musical intelligence and sensitivity which is breathtaking both for its maturity and profound vision." (The Strad)
As one of the most sought-after cellists of his generation, Chinese Australian Qin Li-Wei has appeared all over the world as a soloist and as a chamber musician. After being awarded the Silver Medal at the 11th Tchaikovsky International Competition, Qin won First Prize in the prestigious 2001 Naumburg Competition in New York. “A superbly stylish, raptly intuitive performer ” (Gramophone Magazine, January 2015) was the description of the cellist’s Elgar and Walton concerti recording with the London Philharmonic.
Two times soloist at the BBC Proms in London’s Royal Albert Hall, Qin has enjoyed successful artistic collaborations with many of the world’s great orchestras including all the BBC symphony orchestras, Los Angeles Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, NDR-Sinfonierorchester Hamburg, Konzerthaus Orchester Berlin, La Verdi Orchestra Milan, ORH Vienna Radio Orchestra, Prague Symphony, Osaka Philharmonic, Hong Kong Philharmonic, China Philharmonic, Sydney Symphony and Melbourne Symphony among many others. Leading conductors with whom he has worked include Vladimir Ashkenazy, Sir Andrew Davis, Marek Janowski, Jaap Van Zweden, Gianandrea Noseda, Jan Pascal Totelier, Hans Graf, Yu Long, Lü Jia, Tan Dun, the late Machello Viotti, the late Jiří Bělohlávek and the late Lord Yehudi Menuhin. Qin has also appeared with chamber orchestras such as the Kremerata Baltika, Sinfonia Varsovia, the Munich, the Manchester, the Zurich, and the Australian Chamber Orchestras.
Highlights in recent seasons includes debuts with the London Symphony, Russian Philharmonic, Czech Chamber and Brussels Chamber Orchestras. Return visits include to the Finnish Radio orchestra, China Philharmonic and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
In recital and chamber music, Qin is a regular guest at the Jerusalem, Rheingau and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Music Festivals, and the Lincoln Centre Chamber Music Society, New York, with musicians including Daniel Hope, Nobuko Imai, Mischa Maisky and Peter Frankel.
He has recordings on Universal Music/Decca with the Singapore Symphony, on Sony Classical with Shanghai Symphony, and on ABC Classics with London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Qin was invited to join the BBC 'New Generations' scheme in 2001, and in 2002 received the Young Australian of the Year Award. Other major invitations included appearances at the 2008 Beijing Olympics (New Zealand Symphony), 2012 London Olympics, Davos World Economics Forum (Basel Symphony) and recently the Fortune Global Forum 2017 Opening Ceremony.
Prior to teaching at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory at the National University of Singapore, Qin was a professor of cello at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. He is also a guest professor at Shanghai and Central Conservatories in China. As artistic director, Qin successfully founded the annual Qingdao International Cello festival in 2018.
Qin plays a 1780 Joseph Guadagnini cello, generously loaned by Dr and Mrs Wilson Goh.
Cutting an unmistakable silhouette on the local and global stage, T'ang Quartet has been pushing the boundaries of classical music since 1992.
What started out as a unanimous purpose to break new ground in the sharing of music to a larger audience has grown unwaveringly and audiences now hold expectations of no less than yet another ingenious production each time they attend a T’ang Quartet performance.
The members’ charisma and intuitive connection as a group aptly mirrors their music: smart, sharp and cosmopolitan. The T'ang Quartet's creative output is an artful blend of East and West, seamlessly reinterpreting classical work for contemporary fans while appealing to traditional audiences.
Along the way, the T’ang Quartet has collaborated and performed with contemporaries and friends, among them: John Chen, Fingin Collins, Marian Hahn, Qin LiWei, Karin Schaupp, Noriko Ogawa, Tedd Joselson and Horia Mihail, and Carter Enyeart.
Constant innovation, steady reinvention and regular updates are the name of the game for the T’ang Quartet. For the past 30 years, the group’s musical dexterity has surprised and delighted audiences in Singapore and the rest of the world.
T’ang Quartet is the Quartet-in-Residence of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, National University of Singapore. The year 2022 sees T’ang commemorate their 30th anniversary with a celebratory concert season of 4 performances and the publication of a book.
T'ang Quartet are Ng Yu-Ying (violin), Ang Chek Meng (violin), Han Oh (viola) and Wang Zihao (cello).
LIEN BOON HUA, conductor
A prizewinner of numerous competitions, most recently at the 2018 Antal Dorati International Conducting Competition in Budapest, Lien Boon Hua has garnered much praise for his meticulous attention to detail, musical sensitivity, and versatility across many styles.
Lien is the Artistic Director of Wayfarer Sinfonietta, a young chamber orchestra founded to present symphonic music in innovative ways. He was featured on the 2019/20 Peter Eötvös Foundation Mentoring Program and was appointed Assistant Conductor of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice from 2016 to 2018.
He also served as Assistant Conductor to the Richard-Strauss-Festival in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 2018 and has assisted conductors such as Peter E tv s, Giancarlo Guerrero, Manfred Honeck, Alexander Liebreich and Leonard Slatkin.
An ardent champion of new music, Lien currently leads OpusNovus, the contemporary music ensemble at the Yong
Siew Toh Conservatory of Music in Singapore, and founded Ensemble Æquilibrium, a professional new music collective aimed at advocating the music of Asian composers as well as introducing exciting new repertoire to the public.
Maintaining an international presence, highlights of his recent seasons include subscription debuts with Pannon Philharmonic, Polish Baltic Philharmonic, and re-invitations from NFM Wrocław Philharmonic, Krak w Philharmonic, Transylvania State Philharmonic Orchestra and Singapore Lyric Opera. He made appearances at the Singapore International Festival of Arts, Gdańsk Music Festival and International Mozartiana Festival, and received invitations to participate at international conducting competitions in Turin, Hong Kong, Taipei, Mexico City, Bucharest, and Yerevan.
Lien has participated in masterclasses at prominent festivals with distinguished conductors, such as Bernard Haitink at the Lucerne Easter Festival, Paavo J rvi at the P rnu Music Festival, Marin Alsop and Cristian M!celaru at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, and Stefan Asbury at the Tanglewood Music Festival. He was twice invited to conducting masterclasses with Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra where he received guidance from Osmo Vänskä, Markus Stenz and Thierry Fischer, and was also named an inaugural Mahler Conducting Fellow for the Colorado MahlerFest XXIX.
Currently based in Singapore, Lien received his doctorate in orchestral conducting at the Eastman School of Music and was awarded the Walter Hagen Conducting Prize for his artistic excellence. He holds conducting and performance degrees from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, with additional studies at the Peabody Conservatory of Music.
ORCHESTRA OF THE MUSIC MAKERS
“We are the music makers. And we are the dreamers of dreams.” — Arthur O’Shaughnessy, “Ode”
The Orchestra of the Music Makers (OMM) is a Singapore-based symphony orchestra established in 2008. OMM comprises over 140 highly-trained volunteer musicians and although many have chosen careers outside of music, its musicians are dedicated to the high standards of music-making and community work which OMM stands for. Under the mentorship of Tzelaw Chan, a leading Singaporean conductor and Vice-Dean of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, OMM has become an integral part of Singapore’s classical music scene and gained international repute.
OMM is an orchestra like no other. Beyond its musical ambitions, community work is an integral aspect of its identity, and OMM has consistently structured its activities around giving back to the public. To this day, OMM has assisted in the fundraising of over S$7 million for various charitable causes, but its impact extends beyond that. The bulk of its efforts are invested in community engagement, and one of its most well-attended initiatives is playwithOMM, which gives members of the public an opportunity to read standard repertoire with an orchestra. Much of OMM's work also centres around youth, and a cornerstone of that is its annual Orchestra Camp in collaboration with the School of the Arts Singapore, which develops musical and leadership potential in youth by providing them both a stage to perform on and a platform to learn organisational skills.
OMM enjoys strong audience support at its performances, which are regularly held in Singapore’s leading concert venues. In recognition of its musical standards, OMM was honoured with the HSBC Youth Excellence Award for Musical Excellence in 2009, and has been a regular recipient of the National Arts Council’s support since its founding. The orchestra’s ingenuity lies in its versatility, as it performs a wide repertoire of musical styles, from classical works to film music and beyond.
Travelling widely, OMM has played alongside the world’s finest at the Cheltenham Music Festival and Lichfield Festival in the UK. It made its Taiwan debut at the 2017 Taipei International Choral Festival, and travelled to Perth in 2018 to stage Mahler’s 2nd Symphony with the Western Australian Youth Orchestra.
OMM has also released several live performance recordings to critical acclaim, and many have been featured on numerous platforms, including Singapore Airlines’ KrisWorld in-flight classical music selection. In particular, its performance of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony in 2010 garnered international recognition in notable international publications.
Following its successful performances of Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel and Bernstein’s Mass in 2017 and 2018 respectively, OMM pushed boundaries once again with the critically acclaimed Singapore Premiere of Wagner’s Die Walküre in early 2020 – seven years after it first performed extracts from Wagner’s Ring cycle at its 5th anniversary concert.
Straits Times classical music reviewer Chang Tou Liang remarked this of the Orchestra in 2010: "Tonight they have conquered the world. Goodness only knows what our sonic youth will accomplish in ten years' time." Ten years on, we continue to push boundaries as we kick off a new decade of music-making, with our passion burning brighter than ever.