Wednesday, June 6, 2012

REVIEW: Garrick Ohlsson with HKPO


Cultural Centre Concert Hall, Saturday May 19

If it is not that I will be going to two performances this coming weekend (Thibaudet with HKPO and Hong Kong Singers’ Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know), I will most probably procrastinate and not write this review. There are several reasons why this review took so long to be realized: 1) same as my April 21 and May 5 reviews on HKPO, this is a victim of my very busy work schedule. Yes, there’s no money in blogging and yes, I have a “real” job that affords me to buy tickets to different performances in Hong Kong and if I am lucky, in other parts of the world also, 2) it is not easy to churn out a review of HKPO’s performances, because its inherent quality is usually high thus I need to listen more deliberately and dig deeper in concluding my “assessment” of the performances; and 3) I was not disappointed with this particular concert, BUT I was just simply not excited about it…

I have to put a huge part of my lukewarm feeling to the fact that I don’t really care for Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15 and I feel that Garrick Ohlsson presence was wasted on this piece. Standing 6’4” with enormous hands, it was a sight to see Ohlsson manage some of Brahms’ impossible chords and figuration with ease and flair. Ohlsson is a natural sculptor in sound, unfortunately, the material lacks the right density for Ohlsson to hack and shave with his immense musicality. With Johannes Wildner conducting, the balance was… uninterestingly balanced… it was almost “tidy” and as if the warmth and emotion was replaced with precision and expression. Overall, I enjoyed the performance. After all, Ohlsson is the only North American winner of the International Chopin Piano Competition!

Brahms came after the interval, what was before the interval was Britten’s Peter Grimes: Four Sea Interludes and Debussy’s La Mer. The beauty of the 1st part was the programming. The juxtaposition of two works about the overwhelming mystery of the water with differing intent and result was brilliant. With Peter Grimes, Wildner’s emphasis with its gloomy undercurrent truly highlighted the keenly-etched orchestration; while with La Mer, Wildner was able to switch gear and steer the orchestra into a realm of suggestion and nuance showcasing the unusual impressionistic orchestration. It was like transitioning from sea to ocean. So, was it good? Yes. So why am I lukewarm about the evening? Truthfully, I am not so sure…

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Spirit of the Sea: Ohlsson Plays Brahms
18&19-5-2012 Fri & Sat 8PM
Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Programme
BRITTEN: Peter Grimes –Four Sea Interludes
DEBUSSY: La Mer
BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No.1

Johannes Wildner, conductor
Garrick Ohlsson, piano

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