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Below you find my information on my recent musical activities in my blog posts.


Many thanks for your visit.


Shaun Ng

Sydney, NSW, Australia


0491 132266 (call or text)

shaun at shaunng.com.au

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Saturday, April 08, 2017

St John Passion Review 2

Photo Credit: Kitt Photography


Review by Larry Turner from Sounds Like Sydney.

'In Es ist vollbracht she [Sally-Ann Russell] created a hushed, poignant atmosphere which was enhanced by Shaun Ng’s delicately expressive playing of the viola da gamba.'

Performances of Bach’s Easter Passions in Sydney have become less frequent in recent years so it is very pleasing that three of Bach’s major choral works are being presented this year. One of these, the St John Passion was performed by the Choir of St James’ in its City Recital Hall debut. With its clear but warm acoustic it is an excellent venue for works of this scale.

The St John Passion is more concise than Bach’s later and more frequently performed St Matthew Passion, and places a greater emphasis on the high drama of the Easter events.  Bach clearly thought very highly of it, reviving it at least four times, including during his last years.  Warren Trevelyan-Jones, Head of Music at St James’ directed an excellent performance, avoiding extremes of tempo and other attention grabbing devices.

For this performance, the choir comprised 20 singers who collectively displayed all the virtues required of a superb chamber choir.  The choruses in the St John Passion play a pivotal role and in their first explosive entries of ‘Herr’ the choir demonstrated their trademark discipline, incision and attack.  As the performance progressed they displayed their accuracy, agility, diction and well blended tone.  Their performances of the fierce crowd choruses were appropriately ferocious and explosive.  This is a choir that can be depended upon to provide fine performances in this repertoire.

The chorales were augmented by the sopranos and altos from Santa Sabina College (managed by the redoubtable Karen Carey) and tenors and basses from Shore.  They sang accurately and their contribution provided an important change of tonal quality since their participation simulated chorale singing by a congregation – which was likely to have occurred in the original Leipzig performances.

The highlight of the evening was the outstanding performance of Richard Butler as the Evangelist.  Vocally, Butler was completely comfortable, both with the technical difficulties and the high tessitura of the part – although admittedly at a lower baroque pitch.  Butler’s sense of the drama in delivering the narrative was superb.  His carefully chosen pacing, dynamics, excellent diction and his thoughtful delivery of the German text all made this an exceptional performance.  He also displayed admirable stamina throughout the long evening, especially since he also sang the three tenor arias.  The very difficult Ach, mein Sinn was sung as though the technical challenges simply did not exist.  The arias do not really belong to the Evangelist and, although assigning them to the same singer was presumably for financial reasons, it nevertheless jarred dramatically.

The mezzo-soprano Sally-Ann Russell sang her two contrasting areas effectively.  In Es ist vollbracht she created a hushed, poignant atmosphere which was enhanced by Shaun Ng’s delicately expressive playing of the viola da gamba.  Von der Stricken was also very well sung, though the instrumental ensemble was a little dominant.  The bass-baritone Christopher Richardson has an attractively full, rounded tone and sang expressively in his three arias.  Trevelyan-Jones set a very fast a tempo for Eilt, Ihr angefochtnen Seelen which was not easily accommodated and did not allow the choral interjections to register as strongly as they should.  This, however, was a rare departure from Trevelyan-Jones’s otherwise sensible and well-chosen tempi throughout.

The depth of talent in the Choir of St James’ was highlighted by the number of singers who stepped from the choral ranks to sing solo parts. The vocal projection and techniques for solo singing are quite different from those required for first-rate chorus singing and the ability of these singers to switch between them so readily is admirable.  There was a particularly fine performance by soprano Amy Moore.  Her attractive, clear tone is well suited to Bach and she successfully captured the contrasting emotions of her two arias.

Several other chorus members sang the roles of specific characters.  Christus was sung by Phillip Murray whose rounded vocal sound was well suited to the music, but would have benefited from greater assertiveness and authority. Andrew O’Connor was very impressive as Pilate. He projected well and provided both the authority of a Roman governor as well as conveying Pilate’s empathy with the innocent Christ. Anna Sandstrom, Owen Elsley and Sébastian Maury each had smaller solo interjections and all delivered them very convincingly.

This performance marked the debut appearance of BandBach@St James, an instrumental ensemble formed especially for performances of Bach’s works with this choir.  It includes many of Sydney’s most talented and respected early music professionals.  This was an auspicious inauguration with many excellent individual performances.  With further experience playing together, however, they should develop a more varied style and refine some aspects of internal balance.  The strings displayed fine ensemble and much stylish playing.  Baroque flutes, by their nature, are soft toned instruments but on this occasion they were dominated too much by the other instruments.  The oboes initially had intonation difficulties but these seemed to be overcome during the second half.  There was fine, firm playing from the baroque bassoon.  The continuo of cello, organ and harpsichord provided reliably secure support, although the organ had a tendency to dominate the overall texture – particularly during the hushed episodes relating the death of Jesus.

In all, this was a fine performance and expectations of excellence from the musical forces of St James’ were not disappointed.  Later this year they will be giving four performances of Bach’s cantatas in a liturgical setting.  This will be in addition to their regular concert series, the first of which will be A Baroque Road Trip in their home church on 27 May.

St John Passion Review

Photo Credit: Kitt Photography


Review by Angus McPherson from Limelight Magazine.

'Mezzo-soprano Sally-Anne Russell’s Es ist vollbracht was moving, sung against the sparse texture of continuo and Shaun Ng’s burnished viola da gamba lines.'

The roiling strings and keening winds of the opening of Bach’s St John Passion drop the listener straight into the drama and pathos of Christ’s last days. While Passions (and Messiah’s) abound at this time of year, the smaller scale St John often gives way to the later written and more popular St Matthew passion – but it is no less powerful a piece of music. 

Bolstered by choristers from Santa Sabina College and Shore, and accompanied by BachBand@StJames’ on period instruments, the Choir of St James’ provided a compelling argument for hearing this work more often in their City Recital Hall debut. 

Director Warran Trevelyan-Jones led the work with an eye for detail, shaping the crescendos that propel the drama of the opening Herr, unser Herrscher to great effect, the choir singing with clarity and verve, exploiting the incredibly rich texture created by the combination of singers and period instruments. It was only when the choral texture dropped to single parts that there were any issues with balance. 

The hardest working singer was, of course, the narrating Evangelist, sung by tenor Richard Butler, who also took the tenor arias. Butler’s sound was pleasantly bright in the carefully shaped phrases of the First Part, with plenty of detail and a countertenor-like delicacy on the higher notes. While he seemed to be straining in the upper register during the tenor aria Ach, mein Sinn in the first half, he rallied in the second, delivering beautifully crafted phrases, loads of drama, and a polished sound across all registers. His Erwäge, wie sein blutgefärbter Rücken was a highlight of the evening. 

Mezzo-soprano Sally-Anne Russell’s Es ist vollbracht was moving, sung against the sparse texture of continuo and Shaun Ng’s burnished viola da gamba lines, though the balance was a little band-heavy in her earlier aria, obscuring some of the detail. Amy Moore brought a penetrating clarity to the soprano arias. 

Andrew O’Connor brought his warm, all-encompassing bass to Pilate while bass-baritone Christopher Richardson delivered the bass arias with a robust athleticism. Philip Murray as Christ, Sébastien Maury as Peter and Owen Elsley as Servus all delivered fine performances. 

The band – a new HIP group formed by Nicole Forsyth – was excellent, with highlights including the wonderfully weaving trio of two oboes and bassoon that introduced the first Alto aria and the veiled sound of the baroque flute duo that accompanied Moore’s Ich folge dir gleichfalls mit freudigen Schritten. 

Overall, the Choir of St James’ delivered a fine outing of an underappreciated Passion. I look forward to hearing more from them and BachBand@StJames’. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Young Handel Review

Photo Credit: Han G. Lee

Review by Victoria Watson from the Sounds Like Sydney.

'Shaun Ng was particularly impressive in the slow sonata movements for viola da gamba where the mellifluous tone of the instrument is ideally exploited. The affetuoso third movement of the Sonata in D minor was most “affecting”- the beauty of tone, phrasing and line evoked a mood of exquisitely sorrowful calm ... Shaun Ng treated the continuo line as a true duetto with the voice, illustrating each fluctuating mood and caprice with his phrasing and articulation of Handel’s magical score.'

The Independent Theatre with its live acoustic and elegant neo-classical architecture was the perfect venue for Thoroughbass’s delightful concert dedicated to the early Italian chamber works of Georg Friedrich Handel (1685-1759). The audience enjoyed a sumptuous afternoon tea and then settled in to hear a beautifully structured concert contrasting works for viola da gamba and harpsichord, keyboard solos and cantatas involving all three performers.

Shaun Ng was particularly impressive in the slow sonata movements for viola da gamba where the mellifluous tone of the instrument is ideally exploited. The affetuoso third movement of the Sonata in D minor was most “affecting”- the beauty of tone, phrasing and line evoked a mood of exquisitely sorrowful calm.

The cantatas were two short exquisite gems in the first half, then the six movement drama of Lucrezia (HMV 145) to finish the programme. They were framed by the instrumental works inviting the audience to focus on the contrasting and complementary timbres of gamba, harpsichord and voice. Soprano Anna Fraser brought a superb musical and emotional intelligence to her readings of the cantatas and shone as a singing actor whose technique and artistry served the myriad of changing emotions and musical demands of the virtuosic Lucrezia – both  the most demanding and exhilarating of the afternoon. Shaun Ng treated the continuo line as a true duetto with the voice, illustrating each fluctuating mood and caprice with his phrasing and articulation of Handel’s magical score. Harpsichordist Diana Weston was at her finest in the ensemble pieces realising the challenging non-figured bass line with creative flourish and firm support.

Written when he was only 21 and first performed in Florence in 1706, the final cantata showed the master of theatrical music Handel would become. Lucrezia is a chamber sized mini-opera of great ingenuity and power. The story is one that would also inspire Shakespeare and Benjamin Britten. Handel captures the tortured anguish of a virtuous woman agonised by the trauma of rape and dishonour who chooses suicide as an end to her suffering. Every nuance of her trauma, anger, despair, vengeance and despondency are explored concisely in a rapid fire work that moves seamlessly from recitative, sometimes richly ornamented, to arias of bravura coloratura and mournful chromatic legato. Thoroughbass presented this work with passion and attention to baroque performance practice balanced to bring the work fresh again to a 21st century audience.