Acclaimed Singapore pianist Shane Thio takes centre-stage in re: mix's upcoming Twisters concert on Saturday 15 December 2012 at the Esplanade Recital Studio, 3pm & 7:30pm, performing the solo part in Bach's Brandenberg Concerto No.5 and Horovitz's Jazz Concerto for Harpsichord and Orchestra. He tells SG-MUSIC.NET about what audiences can expect from both pieces, and the importance of being versatile as a musician.
Shane, you’ve got quite a hefty involvement in re: mix’s upcoming Twisters concert, taking the solo harpsichord part in Bach’s iconic Brandenburg Concerto No.5 and Joseph Horovitz’s Jazz Concerto for Harpsichord and Orchestra. You must have been asked this question countless times, but for the benefit of our readers, could you tell us what the Bach means to you as a “keyboardist”. Without a doubt it’s one of the stand-out works written for harpsichord from the Baroque period.
Bach himself was a virtuoso harpsichordist and organist, and the Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 was in fact the first harpsichord concerto ever written. Taking the form of a triple concerto with 3 soloists (the violin, flute and harpsichord), the other unique thing is that the harpsichord plays the role of both accompanist and soloist in the work.
There are numerous intricate passages written for the harpsichord, especially in the 1st movement, with a mixture of scalic passages and leaps, while the 2nd movement requires a totally different technique, with many long legato lines which is actually much more difficult to play on the harpsichord than on the modern piano.
What about Horovitz’s Jazz Concerto? You’ve performed it before, but it’s certainly quite rarely played. Tell us about the piece, your experiences with it, and what some of the biggest challenges of performing it are. What can audiences hearing it for the first time expect and listen out for?
This is a really unique work, and I believe it is only jazz piece ever written that involves the harpsichord. In many ways, it is similar to the Bach in that is it a concerto grosso (concerto for a group of soloists) and the concertino section (group of soloists) in this case is made of up the harpsichord, double bass and drums.
It is very much a hybrid work in that it contains both classical and modern features. Like a normal classical work, it is made up of 3 movements – the 1st movement is in sonata form, the 2nd movement is in ABA form, while the last movement is a rondo. However, harmonically and rhythmically, the idiom is jazz.
Another similarity between the Horovitz and the Bach is that both have written-out parts meant to simulate improvisation.
You know so many of the musicians in re: mix personally and professionally. Is this the first time that you are performing with them? How have rehearsals been going? What would you say is most enjoyable about working with re: mix?
This is not the 1st time – I’ve also performed with re: mix last year in their Turn! Turn! Turn! concert where we did Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Piazzolla’s Four Seasons and I also played the harpsichord.
I’ve worked with so many of the musicians in re: mix before, especially Say Ming whom I’ve known for many many years, and it’s always enjoyable when you get to rehearse and perform music with people you know well.
You have such a wide-ranging career as a pianist. Is there any advice that you could share with younger musicians who are contemplating a career in music?
To survive as a musician in Singapore, it’s extremely important to be versatile and able to function in many different kinds of settings. That’s how I’ve ended up playing piano in so many different kinds of ensembles!