Wednesday, June 13, 2012

REVIEW: Jean-Yves Thibaudet with HKPO

Cultural Centre Concert Hall, Friday June 8

There was something quite wrong. I am not so sure whether I was starting to get sick and tired of classical music or I was too tired to enjoy the music or because I have changed my ticket from my usual Saturday night to Friday night which meant that I was not in my usual seat or the performance was just plain or was it just the repertoire. In my previous HKPO review (Garrick Ohlsson), I was also not quite enthusiastic; and with this, I am not sure whether whose problem is it.

Half-German/half-Japanese conductor, Jun Märkl, led the HKPO in an evening of half-French/half-Spanish and even half-Egytian/half-Indo-China! The evening started with DEBUSSY’s Khamma (orchestrated by KOECHLIN). Khamma, for me, has to be one of Debussy’s least known works. While I find Debussy’s Jeux ballet score tends to be full of inventive and intriguing musical incidences on tonality, Khamma tends to be… hmmm… melo-dramatic, full of gesticulation and illustration. Märkl and the HKPO bravely course through the score and making the most out of it. In particular, the initial section wherein different musical lines were sliding in and out in curiously intertwining approach was beautifully handled by Märkl.

Listening to Thibaudet’s Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No.5 Egyptian confirmed that, for me, it is one of the less appealing one of Saint-Saens’ piano concertos. I mean, if Thibaudet can’t make it work for me, I don’t think anybody can. Thibaudet’s innate musicality was most apparent in the piece. There was not a single moment that he allowed his performance to lack neatness and clarity, while ensuring that vitality and emotions were intrinsic.

The second half of the concert was composed of three Ravels, both the Alborada del Gracioso and the Rhapsodie Espagnole was executed with accuracy. The Bolero came in the same mold, which was not exactly pleasant. Ravel and critics have always been very particular with the tempo and duration of Bolero; and in this situation, Märkl and HKPO did very well. Personally, I am not very particular with it, especially since I have heard this piece too many times. Those times that I truly enjoyed Bolero was when the conductor actually managed to keep the machine-like pace yet allow the first and second melody to contrast each other and slowly develop them into an obsessive manic intensity as if the they were trying to break free! A little lilt and inflection would be nice. No, I didn’t get that… I just got a well-executed standard Bolero.

Great Performers: L’Exotique
Thibaudet & Märkl Boléro
8&9-6-2012 Fri &Sat 8PM
Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

DEBUSSY (orch. KOECHLIN): Khamma
SAINT-SAËNS: Piano Concerto No.5 Egyptian
RAVEL: Alborada del Gracioso
RAVEL: Rhapsodie Espagnole
RAVEL Boléro

Jun Märkl, conductor
Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano

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