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Why you should attend MasterWorks’ upcoming chamber concert that commemorates World War I

It will feature works by composers that lost someone during World War I and also celebrates life after the war.

World War I poet Siegfried Sassoon’s famous poem Aftermath begins with the poignant line, “Have you forgotten yet?”

It reminds readers of the savage international conflict waged from 1914 to 1918.

The Addo Arts Company takes a similar title for its chamber concert next month, marking the centennial of that war. MasterWorks: Lest We Forget on Aug 18 at the Esplanade Recital Studio features music from composers who lived through the so-called Great War, as well as poems from that era read by performer and storyteller Rosemarie Somaiah.

The five-year-old chamber orchestra at the heart of the Addo Arts Company has performed a MasterWorks concert every year since 2015, featuring works from the Romantic to 20th and 21st centuries.

The ensemble often innovates – while performing Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition in last year’s MasterWorks concert, scent artists moved around the audience, spreading fragrances and odours for added stimulus.

Conductor Clarence Tan, 42, explains why this year’s concert includes readings: “We believe words have the power to change things and the power to alter people’s perception of the sounds they hear.”

The performers are still deciding which poems will be read at the concert – the Great War inspired gritty, heartfelt writing from many like Sassoon, including Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves and Rupert Brooke.

Brooke is also commemorated in the programme through Frederick Kelly’s Elegy For Strings “In Memoriam: Rupert Brooke”, dedicated to the composer’s friendship with the poet.

This year’s concert mainly features works by composers who lost someone in World War I, or were celebrating life after the war.

It also includes a new work from 27-year-old Singaporean composer Gu Wei, titled to be determined, which came from a composition lab and competition organised by Addo Arts Company last year to encourage new works for chamber ensembles.

On the programme is Ravel’s orchestration of Le Tombeau De Couperin, dedicated to friends who fell in the war and conducted by rising baton Christopher Yong Lin.

Tan takes over for works such as Andre Caplet’s orchestration of Debussy’s Clair De Lune. Caplet died of lung complications after being gassed during the same war.

Singapore-based Indonesian pianist Cecilia Ratna will play Prokofiev’s Left Hand Piano Concerto – or Piano Concerto No. 4. It was commissioned by pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who was shot in the right arm and lost it during World War I.

Tan says: “We hope this production will serve as a reminder of how strong we can be in the face of adversity and also appreciate our loved ones and the little things in life more.”

(RELATED: Grammy-winning violinist Joshua Bell to make Chinese concerto debut in Singapore)



This article was originally published in The Straits Times.

Photo: Addo Arts Company