Tuesday, September 18, 2012

REVIEW: Eroica! with HKPO

Cultural Centre Concert Hall, Saturday September 15

The German poet Gottfried August Bürger has inspired several composers such as Franz Schubert, Franz Liszt, Henri Duparc and Richard Strauss. César Franck was no exception and he wrote Le Chasseur maudit ("The Accursed Huntsman"), based on Bürger's ballads, Der wilde Jäger. This symphonic poem is a graphic as it gets. The music tells the story in a very clear-cut manner that I feel any analysis will be most unnecessary. Personally, the work is not my cup of tea. The HKPO, led by maestro Antoni Wit, did however produce a very good reading that was dramatic and not melo-dramatic. Antoni Wit cuts a fine and elegant figure on stage; his gestures were reserved yet effective.

Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor, Op.22 followed featuring the Argentinean pianist Ingrid Fliter. The concerto, widely considered as Saint-Saëns’ most popular, is an "interesting” piece with whimsical changes in style which pretty much serves to showcase the pianist. In fact, the unpredictable changes provoked Polish pianist and composer Zygmunt Stojowski to joke that it "begins with Bach and ends with Offenbach." Fliter’s distinctive flair with a dash of flirt and fun on top of her virtuosity was most fitting of the work. Applause came in abundance and audience was richly rewarded with Chopin’s Nocturne in D-flat major and Waltz in D-flat major.

The title performance came after the interval. For some reason, I feel that the opening movement was a tad slow, which robbed the beautifully detailed performance the vivacity and agitation that would have contrasted it more with the second movement. The Marcia funèbre is a fine example of consolatory warmth and civility, a picture of somber seriousness rather than emotional out-pour. The Scherzo and Finale fared better and actually sounded less tense and lighter on its feet. Even so, both movements managed to epitomize classical tradition but with a dose of romantic style. It is also worth mentioning that the brass and especially the woodwind did HKPO proud in this symphony. Overall, maestro Wit and HKPO provided a very enjoyable performance.

14&15-9-2012 Fri & Sat 8PM
Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

FRANCK: The Accursed Hunter
SAINT-SAËNS: Piano Concerto No.2
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No.3 Eroica

Antoni Wit, conductor
Ingrid Fliter, piano

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