Wednesday, July 7, 2010

REVIEW: Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra's Season Finale - Carmina Burana

The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra led by Chinese conductor Yu Long provided a generous finale to a remarkable season.

This is the review I wrote for the Time-Out Hong Kong online version. Chinese conductor Yu Long led the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall on 3rd of July. Joining them were the Shanghai Opera House Choir, The Hong Kong Children's Choir, Chinese soprano Chen Xiaoduo, German tenor Peter Maus and Chinese baritone Laio Changyong. To read the review, kindly follow the link below.

4 out of 6

Cultural Centre Saturday July 3

The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra led by Chinese conductor Yu Long provided a generous finale to a remarkable season. The first half of the concert featured Chen Qi-gang’s Enchantements oubliés, a work commissioned by the Orchestre National de France in 2004 and premiered in 2008.

While Chen studied with Messiaen and his style has been compared to Fauré and Debussy, I would say that for Enchantements oubliés, Chen appeared to be more like Ravel with an updated musical language and a Chinese accent. During the interval, while trying to recall the music, the opening bars of Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major somehow kept surfacing in my mind.

Chen was not afraid to infuse the Enchantements oubliés with long beautiful lines matched with colorful and magical orchestration. Chen painted the piece with clouds of well-constructed harmonies punctuated with broad strokes of dissonance creating a distinctive enthralling landscape.

After the interval came Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, a cantata based on 24 of the poems found in the medieval collection of the same name. Carmina Burana kicked off with a massive and uninhibited sound from both the orchestra and the choir. Maestro Yu Long, with a sound judge of tempi, kept the temperature high and successfully showcased the music’s diverse mood.

Chinese soprano Chen Xiaoduo, while having a beautiful lush voice, sang with very distinctive Chinese controlled ‘nasal’ tone and wide vibrato, which made the long fluid solo parts sound a bit too heavy. German tenor Peter Maus’ rendition of the roasting swan was tellingly managed. Meanwhile, Chinese baritone Liao Changyong was in fine form. With a timbre that is rich and resonant, Changyong sang with exciting vocal color and a good grasp of the idiom.

The stars of the night, however, were the Shanghai Opera House Choir and The Hong Kong Children’s Choir. They were consistently refined, gloriously bright and aptly incisive.

Satoshi Kyo

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