Sunday, May 2, 2010

REVIEW: Angela Hewitt - Mozart & Bach with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

Shouldn't the billing read "Bach & Mozart" instead of "Mozart & Bach"?

Be it in the "order of appearance", "alphabetical order" or "chronological order", Bach should have come first. In this case, it should have the top-billing. At least that is what I believe should be the case. Angela Hewitt, Mozart & Bach with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra performed to a full and well-behave house at the Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall last night, 2nd of May.

I have to admit that the concert was one of those I feel obliged to attend not because the program was exciting but because it was going to be performed by a very well-known artist. I was introduced to Angela in her critically acclaimed recording of Ravel's solo piano music in 2002 and saw her in a piano recital in 2004 as part of the Hong Kong Arts Festival. Bach and Mozart are not exactly what I would describe as exciting. Interesting? Yes. Beautiful? Yes. Exciting? Hmmm... not really.

The first half of the concert started with Johann Sebastian Bach's Keyboard Concerto in G minor, BWV1058. Immediately, one noticed the sound to be quite different. It could be the technique or the use of a Fazioli piano or both, but definitely the sound was somehow brighter and took a different shade. This was followed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat, K595. While both pieces were performed beautifully, it was the change from Bach to Mozart that amazed me. The programming made a good contrast that truly showed off and highlighted the beauty of both pieces and most of all, showed off what makes Angela one of the most celebrated pianists in the world. While the Bach's was brilliant, I would have preferred the Mozart's 2nd movement to be a wee less dragging and dramatic. The highlight of the first half though has to be how the cadenza in the Mozart's 3rd movement was dispatched with a smoky wisp quality. Just genius.

The second half followed the Bach - Mozart sequence. Bach's Keyboard Concerto in F minor, BWV1056 has to be the best of the whole evening. The 2nd movement was perfection exemplified. Because the music is so beautiful, there is always the temptation to overwork it. In this case, Angela and the whole orchestra played with refined sensibility while maintaining a narrow elasticity on the rhythm, enough to keep the emotion affecting and momentum going. Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K466 followed. The dialogue between the orchestra and the soloist was stimulating in the 2nd movement. The orchestra kept up with Angela in every single line to build up into a tempestuous frenzy before slowly calming down.

Overall, it was very unexpected in a positive way. Interpretation judgements were wisely utilized, unpredictable and valid, making it... exciting. I am glad I went.


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