Sunday, April 18, 2010

REVIEW: Sarah Chang Plays Bruch with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

I would not have minded leaving during the interval.
Sarah Chang plays Bruch, a Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra concert, played almost to a full house on April 17 2010 at the Hong Kong Cultural Center Concert Hall.

The concert started with John Adams' The Black Gondola. I haven't heard this piece before; thus I was expecting minimalist piece. After all, I know John Adams through his works like the Nixon in China, Short Ride in a Fast Machine, On the Transmigration of Soul and Doctor Atomic Symphony. The Black Gondola, on the other hand, is quite different and that is because it is based on (or an orchestration of) Liszt's La Lugubre Gondola. The orchestration pushed the piece beyond Liszt's Romantic style to a more Modern treatment that amplified the desolation of the piece. The orchestra led by Andreas Delfs was tight and played beautifully.

The highlight followed with Sarah Chang taking the lead in Max Bruch's Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor, Op.26. I do love this piece of music and it was great to hear it live with a gifted violinist. The concerto is one of the most popular Romantic violin concertos with its wonderfully melodic lines. Expectedly, Sarah was fantastic and HKPO lived up to the challenge amply. Sarah's precise intonation, sensitive bow control and exciting showmanship made the evening. In fact, they are all interesting to watch also! The linking of the different movements actually heightened the interaction between the soloist and the orchestra. It was like a continuous relay or a watching a tag team sport.

Now, after the interval came Johannes Brahm's Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68. I didn't like it and it is to no fault of the HKPO. I just simply do not like Brahm's symphonies. Everytime I say this, some people will be appalled and will give me the whole sermon about his popularity, influence and him being one of the great three B's (Bach and Beethoven being the other two)of classical music. I am not so sure why I don't like his symphonies, I can only guess that I find them too academic or scientific for music of Romantic period. I can't help feel like shouting, 'Get on with it! Stop beating around the bush! What are you trying to say?' Yes, it is my problem.

John Adams' The Black Gondola

Max Bruch's Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor, Op.26. with Sarah Chang + James Levine

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