Wednesday, November 3, 2010

ALMOST REVIEW: De Waart’s Schumann with the HKPO

I only attended the first half of this concert on the 29th of October at the Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall. I didn’t have my usual seat as I was supposed to go to this concert on Saturday, but had to move it to Friday instead due to a more important appointment. What happened due to this decision has significantly lessen my enjoyment of the concert. I used to be seated in the stall left section. For this concert, I was exiled to the balcony and the world there is quite different.

There was a bunch of boys a few rows in front of me who kept laughing all throughout the concert despite being warned by the usher. I am actually not quite sure what they were laughing about as they have their earphones on, it must be something they were listening to from their phone. Then I had a bunch of girls to my left that were very busy flipping through their papers, discussing and writing. It must be a school assignment. Then, the biggest annoyance was this little girl right in front of me who sniffles loudly every 5 seconds (yes, I timed it). I felt like asking her mother to ask the girl to blow her nose. Obviously, the girl was ill but the mother really wanted to go to the concert. Throughout the first half, the mother was very absorbed with the performance… how I wish I had that kind of concentration power!

Okay, now to the concert (first half only). Marking the bicentenary of the birth of Robert Schumann, this all Schumann concert started with Manfred Overture. There is a general perception that Schumann’s orchestral works are inferior to his other types of composition or even to other composers. Unfortunately, the uninspired tepid rendition of Manfred simply reinforced that perception. Manfred is a dramatic poem written in 18-16 to 1817 by Lord Byron and contains supernatural elements, which was quite popular in England at the time. Any interpretation that doesn’t ride the crest and ebb of the unnerving circumstances of the poem is bound to sound halfhearted.

The Piano Concerto followed with Chen Sa not improving the situation. The interpretation was standard. I wouldn’t say it was bad, but just uninteresting and mechanically brilliant. It was during the second movement, that my mind started to wander and the bright idea of not attending the second half of the concert popped up. Chen Sa’s encore was Schumann’s Widmung (Liszt’s arrangement?). Here, she did better, but I have already decided at this point that I want to leave… beside, she was not playing in the second half…

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