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Enigma concert premieres 'Gerbang Nias'

Arya Dipa

The Jakarta Post

Bandung  /  Fri, May 4, 2018  /  08:56 am
Enigma concert premieres 'Gerbang Nias'

In tune: Cellist Lim Hee-young (left) interacts with conductor Robert Nordling, who directs the Bandung Philharmonic in the Enigma concert at the theater of the Dago Tea House in Bandung on April 29. The orchestra, established in 2016, accompanied Lim in Concerto for Cello in D Minor by Édouard Lalo. (JP/Arya Dipa)

The sound of Astri Kinanti’s flute was soothing, evoking images of hobbits’ rural ambience with its comforting lush greenery for Lord of the Ringsenthusiasts. 

Within 20 seconds, the atmosphere turned lively with violins and percussion coming into play.

This marked the pattern of tones in the composition presented by the Bandung Philharmonic orchestra at the Dago Tea House in Bandung on the evening of April 29. 

A repetition of the tones was strengthened by cellos, followed by instruments of the brass section. 

For a minute, the orchestra, directed by assistant conductor Wishnu Dewanta, repeated the pattern with the same tones rendered by xylophones, after which all the orchestral players made a throat-clearing sound in unison. The pattern was again repeated, but this time it was played by nearly all instruments.

It was the premiere of the “Gerbang Nias” (Nias Gate) composition by composer Nathan Paul Iskandar. 

The young composer, who completed his musical studies at the Conservatory of Music at Pelita Harapan University, claimed to have been inspired by the traditional dance Fame’e Afo performed by the ethnic Nias group to welcome visitors. 

“I adapted the seven-note pattern [of the dance] for the whole music,” Nathan, who arranged them to become only six notes in the classical style, said.

The 2017 composition is indeed identical to the music to accompany Fame’e Afo, complete with the throat-clearing sound.

The difference is that the Nias people only use three instruments: the faritia(gamelan-like instrument), aramba (gong) and gondra (drum-like instrument made of wood and animal hide). 

Since 2016, the Bandung Philharmonic has offered its new musical pieces worked out by Indonesian composers in every concert.

Bandung Philharmonic artistic director Michael Hall said this concept had distinguished the orchestra in Bandung from all others. 

“I have not heard anywhere in the world of an orchestra being founded in a city this size, this big and growing this fast, ever. We need to embrace the idea that one thing plus the other thing cannot equal two — maybe three,” Hall said. 

In his view, a combination of traditional music with something different, in this case classical music, can produce an original composition. 

Hall referred to United States composer Lou Harrison, who introduced a gamelan tune in his work of the 1950s. 

“Because of this, everybody knows about the gamelan, and when they hear the combination, they wonder where the gamelan is and they search for it,” Hall said. 

In closing the third-season concert, the Bandung Philharmonic brought Enigma as its theme. 

As many as 70 musicians who auditioned and have been contracted for a season presented “Enigma” by Edward Elgar, “Magic Flute Overture” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and accompanied South Korean cellist Lim Hee-young in playing “Cello Concerto in D Minor” by Èdouard Lalo. 

The performance of Lim Hee-young, entrusted with the status of principal of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, opened with orchestral music, followed by the soloist’s gradual entry with various slow variations that became increasingly dominant.

In the second movement, the melody of Lim’s cello was melancholic, sounding softly with flutes, strings and other cellos responding, producing jolly tones. Dressed in pink, Lim played her cello with full expression and zeal. The second part was closed with cheerful harmony shown by Lim and the woodwind section.

The third movement sounded out a magnificent blend of the orchestra and soloist. They concluded the session in an air of exaltation, prompting the full-house audience of about 500 to express appreciation with a thundering ovation. Lim readily gave an encore by playing Sebastian Bach’s “Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major”. 

“The reason I choose Lalo’s concerto was this concerto has a lot of emotion, the beginning is kind of heavy. It’s very rare to start a concerto with a cadenza, but the second theme is like in heaven, very lyrical passages and we can hear a lot of emotion,” Lim said.

For the second movement, Lim interpreted its notations in the manner while remaining in Spain. 

“You know like a man claiming his love for [someone] he’s in love with, he sings with the mandolin or guitar. It’s a very lovely serenade, it’s light and then we have the last movement, very festive like a parade,” said Lim about Lalo’s work that she played for 30 minutes. 

As the concert was closing, Robert Nordling as the conductor gave his summary to the audience. 

“This is a concert about music that tells us stories and some of the stories are clear, some are mysterious […] But in each of the pieces is a secret message which only that person would know,” Nordling said. 

Regarding the composition of Enigma in its entirety, Nordling fully left it to the audience to interpret. 

“That’s one of the secrets in this beautiful music.”