Sunday, 8 September 2019

Baroque revelations

Several weeks ago, I was alerted to an announcement that the Wicked Music People ensemble would make a return visit to Penang for another performance. Last December, they had played a concert of baroque music here on Christmas Eve and I had thoroughly enjoyed the programme. Thus, I was looking forward to the ensemble playing here again. It was time truly well-spent yesterday afternoon at the Macallum Connoisseurs listening to these folks on their baroque instruments.

The added interest this time was their newly acquired "Assembled-in-Malaysia" harpsichord. According to U-En Ng, it took him and his friends some three or four months to assemble the harpsichord from a knock-down kit imported from France, patiently putting together all the parts. Without taking into account the man-hours they spent on this task, the cost of the harpsichord parts was about RM60,000, inclusive of transportation and Customs duty. Importing a completely built-up harpsichord, Ng guessed, could have set them back RM100,000 instead.

Ng mentioned that the number of harpsichords in the country could probably be counted on one hand. There is one at the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra in Kuala Lumpur but it's used exclusively at the Petronas Philharmonic Hall at the KLCC. There are some which are privately owned but the owners wouldn't lend them out either. Therefore, Ng and his friends decided to build their own instrument instead. Now, having pieced everything together, they have been taking the harpsichord on the road to their various engagements. Malaysia's first publicly accessible harpsichord, he was very proud to proclaim.

The afternoon set featured Henry Purcell's Chaconne from The Fairy Queen Z.629, Johann Heinrich Schmelzer's Ciaccona in A major, Diego Ortiz's Recercadas, Carlos Martinez Gil's Aromas from Suite Estiu, Andrea Falconieri's Ciaccona, Jean-Marie Leclair's Trio Sonata II Opus 13 and Georg Friedrich Handel's Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from Solomon HWV67. Somewhere in between Ibrahim Aziz threw in a solo performance.

The Wicked Music People ensemble consisted of U-En Ng and Ibrahim Aziz on the viola da gamba, Lee Hai Lin and Kenneth Lim on the baroque violin, Tina Vinson on the harpsichord and Adrian Jones on the double bass.

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