An Unforced Performer: Gabriel Ng


Epoch Times, Singapore Edition (Issue 498, Nov 7 – 20, 2014)

By Li Yen
Epoch Times Staff

Gabriel Ng is a remarkable local violinist you have to look out for.

“Here is surely one of the great violinists of the early 21st century,” writes Robert Markow in United States’ Fanfare Magazine, who describes Ng’s playing as an “unforced performance, listening to which seems like drinking directly from a pure stream”.

Gabriel Ng started his exciting violin journey at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts under the tutelage of Yah Wan Har. At 10, he was enrolled into the Yehudi Menuhin School in the UK, and later studied at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

At seven, Gabriel made his debut overseas performance at the Asian Cultural Festival in Tokyo. He has performed in Rome, Jakarta, Germany and Switzerland, and played concertos with numerous established orchestras which include the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Youth Orchestras of Belarus and Salamanca, and Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

Belying his youth, the 19-year-old has won numerous accolades, from the First Prize in the Junior Category of the biennial Singapore National Piano and Violin Competition in 2003, the Grand Prize at the XIV Andrea Postacchini International Violin Competition 2007 in ltaly to the Bach Prize at the Menuhin International Violin Competition 2012 in Beijing.

A recipient of the 2006 HSBC Youth Excellence Award for Musical Excellence, Gabriel is also a Manchester United fan who loves listening to diverse musical genres, ranging
from West African Pop to hip-hop.

The “warm and welcoming” local violinist is enlisting for National Service this month. Thereafter, he will be studying for his music degree in the UK.

When did your love for music start, and when did you realise you want to be a violinist?
I guess I have always had a connection with music ever since I started the violin when I was four. That was the time in 1998 when the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) in Singapore had just started a violin course for kids and my parents signed me up. I started thinking about music as a career path when I entered the Menuhin School in the UK, a specialist music school.

In your opinion, why do you think music is important for mankind?
Music is innate in all humans. It has since the dawn of civilisation always been part of human living and social interaction. I think it always has a positive influence on the emotions of people, providing a means of emotional expression that is universal.

You studied violin in the Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey, United Kingdom. Tell us more about it.
My school curriculum in the Menuhin School was divided into half music and the other half academic work. The school was constantly filled with the sounds of students practising, and students making music together. It was the atmosphere and being together with children with similar musical passions that influenced my decision to become a musician. My teacher there, Natasha Boyarsky, instilled in me the desire to work hard and improve as much as I can and introduced me to the professional world of musicians in the UK.

How would you describe your approach to playing and
rendering music?
I would describe my approach as using a lot of my intuitive sense. However, recently I have been recording my playing and realising that sometimes my intuitive sense while playing is somewhat different from what I like it to be when listening to it!

What are some of your preferred music pieces, and why?
I do not have a preference for music from a particular period. But I do like music that is rarely played as I find it refreshing and in a way more challenging than the standard repertoire because it can be more demanding to interpret.

How does it feel winning the Singapore National Piano and Violin Competition, the HSBC Youth Excellence Award and the Bach prize in the Yehudi Menuhin International Competition for Young Violinists in Beijing?
The competitions gave me an extra incentive to work towards a goal, and increased my practice time. After all the hard work and preparation, the prizes were just the bonus and even if I did not win the competitions, I would have gained much from participating, meeting and hearing other fellow musicians perform. The HSBC Youth Excellence Award funded my studies and provided me with really good performing opportunities.

Are there any musicians, especially violinists, whom
you admire and why?
I admire violinists such as Leonidas Kavakos, Alina Ibragimova, Pekka Kuusisto and Maxim Vengerov, all of whom I had the chance of seeing them perform live in concerts in London. I think they are all very different with different strengths and styles.

You have played in Japan at the age of seven, and have performed in Rome, Germany and Jakarta. Does travelling change your perspective in music and life?
Yes, definitely. My current teacher, David Takeno, always stresses the importance of visiting and exploring as many countries and cultures as possible as many of the music that I play come from all over the world. Visiting these places can give me an insight into how the pieces should feel like. Having performed in these countries makes me feel that whilst music is universal in appeal, people react differently to it.

What are the differences between Europe’s and Singapore’s music scene?
The classical music scene in Europe has [history and traditions], so it is a great place to study. However, Singapore has an exciting growing classical music scene. The Yong Siew Toh Conservatory and the [youth] orchestra Orchestra of the Music Makers are just a couple of indicators of the growing interest in classical music in Singapore and the region. For now, I am happy participating in as many concerts in Singapore as possible.

Is cultivating an appreciation for classical music important? How can we cultivate an appreciation for classical music among Singaporeans?
Today we are bombarded by various types of music in public spaces such as shopping malls, supermarkets and in advertisements so much so that our musical senses can be
dulled. I think it is important occasionally for people to have the opportunity to sit down in a quiet place and focus on a particular piece of music. Classical concerts provide such an opportunity. Many kids in Singapore learn an instrument, which is a good sign for classical music. The Music Elective Programme in schools also gives an introduction to music appreciation.

For more information about Gabriel Ng, visit

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