SSO Eroica Review

by Burt Thyng

SSO presented Beethoven’s Eroica along with Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture and Pokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2 featuring pianist Wong Chiyan last Friday evening, with conductor Okku Kamu taking the baton for the night’s performance for an evening of varied melodies.

One of the highlights for the night was Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.2, which the composer completed a month after the suicide of his friend, thus most parts of the piece sounded disjointed as he attempted to deal with his grief. The melodious malalignment is difficult at times to listen to; sudden cymbal outbursts followed by a barely audible lows in cyclic fashion, it’s likened to a person suffering from bipolar disorder experiencing the psychotic aspects of this dreaded disease.

For a challenging piece such as this, a formidable pianist would therefore have to be put to the task, and for the night, it was one who had internalised the 30 minute arrangement no less! Wong Chiyan played sans score to better identify and portray the hysterics of this piece, displaying the physical savagery required at the piano, and giving himself away entirely to the music. Perhaps he relied on his personal experiences to develop a cognitive understanding of Prokofiev’s despair, a practice potentially dangerous if done in its extreme. We certainly felt our nerve endings tingle with every twist of the concerto.


Beethoven’s third symphony (‘Eroica’) was definitely a more palatable piece, suitable for easier listening amongst new classical music lovers. Clear dialogues between the flutes, oboes and violins with neat build-ups of crescendos by the SSO, slowly adding layer upon layer in a major chord makes for a less complicated melody. The simpler theme was to represent a grand funeral march.

Building up, the final two movements could be played separately from the first two, as they describe the resurrection of Prometheus. There’s a disparity of content from the first two movements which was made for the reality Beethoven was in, as opposed to the mythical story that he was describing in the last two.

Woodwinds introduce a theme which the orchestra soon follows after, including three French horns enacting a hunting scene in a forest. Soon enough the orchestra depicts an entire horde of Prometheus’s own creatures dancing in joyful merriment and the SSO finishes off tonight’s performance in good spirits.