Sunday, January 16, 2011

REVIEW: Ran Jia with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

HK Cultural Centre Concert Hall, Saturday January15

The concert was entitled, Haydn & Mozart: Ran Jia, The Piano Poetess. I could have sworn that I thought it was Elagar & Williams: David Atherton, The Master Painter.

Ran Jia, born in Chengdu, is the daughter of Professor Da-qun Jia (one of the leading composers in China and Dean of the Graduate Study Programs at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. She is currently studying with Gary Graffman at the Cutis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

For this concert, she played Haydn’s Keyboard Concerto in D, Hob. XVIII:11 and Mozart’s Concert Rodo in D for piano and orchestra, K382. Not only was it her first time to be playing with the HKPO, it was her first time to be playing these two pieces in public… and it showed. She is a very competent pianist and she has very good ideas in her interpretation but they were notably premature… and almost unsure. I caught myself hoping that she will just go for it, not to mention that I kept wishing that I was hearing her play a different repertoire… perhaps Schubert or Schumann.

Elgar’s Cockaigne (In London Town), Op.40, on the other hand opened the concert with great aplomb. Atherton and the orchestra were on it with a combination of confidence and fun. The highlight of the evening though was the rarely heard Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 4 in F minor. Unlike Williams’ first three symphonies, it was not given a title. Williams stated that it was to be understood as “pure music”. As “pure music”, the work is interesting and innovative, almost like hearing Beethoven after a series of Mozarts. Once again, Atherton and the orchestra were cohesive and determined to paint a picture full of colors, both in broad strokes and fine details.

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