Wednesday, January 30, 2013

REVIEW: Antarctic Journey with HKPhil

Cultural Centre Concert Hall, Saturday January 19

What is the antonym of synergy? The closest single word (without inventing one) that I can think of is antagonism. In any case, the concept of bringing some of the newer music together within the theme of journey, polar extreme and desolation; and adding on to that, infuse the concert with projected images and narration sounded quite exciting, the reality was very different.

I blame it to programming. All three pieces (Bax’s Tintagel, Rautavaara’s Cantus Articus and Vaughan Williams’s Symphony No. 7) while may differ in structure and music style are arguably quite similar in the overall emotions they evoke. Grandiloquence and profound melancholia immediately came to my mind. David Atherton and the HKPhil gave a decent performance but it was not enough to lift up the weight of the antagonistic combinations of the different elements in the evening.

The centerpiece of the evening was Vaughan Williams’s Symphony No. 7 entitled Sinfonia Antartica. It got the multi-media treatment with montage of Herbert Ponting’s photographs of Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition. The problem with the montage was that it was interesting but it didn’t really accompany well the music. The pace, rhythm and overall mood it created doesn’t really reflect the music. One has to give credit though that at least it appeared to have some kind of a plot which matches the narrative provided by Rebecca Lee and Michael MacLeod. There was an introduction to each movement (NOT the brief quotations Vaughan Williams indicated in his original score) using selected segments from Scott’s journal. The segments were laid out in the programme while Macleod, in English, narrated half of each segment and Lee narrated the other half in Cantonese. This idea was totally gratuitous especially when Macleod spoke so plainly, almost a caricature of a Westerner trying to make himself understood amongst non-English speakers. Lee, though, unexpectedly did a wonderful job.

Me and my friends were never speechless after an HKPhil performance… it was so obvious that not a single one of us enjoyed it.
Antarctic Journey
18&19-1-2013 Fri & Sat 8PM
Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

BAX: Tintagel
RAUTAVAARA: Cantus Arcticus
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Symphony No.7 Sinfonia Antartica (Performance with images and narration)

David Atherton, conductor
Yuki Ip, soprano
The Hong Kong Children's Choir, chorus
Rebecca Lee, narrator (Cantonese)
Michael MacLeod, narrator (English)

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At January 31, 2013 at 1:43 PM , Blogger Dennis said...

To the contrary I quite enjoyed the evening and considered that quite a success. The montage (so to say) didn't go very well with the music, and actually I don't think they did intend to do so (that's not very precise work by the way and I complained that too), I think the thing worked most is how the pictures were selected. There were rough moments but given the chilly music I think it worked fine. To me it's equally impressive as they did years back with The Battleship Potemkin -- well that's much more dramatic and more precise work picture-cum-musically speaking but the Antartica is effective on some level.

At January 31, 2013 at 2:57 PM , Blogger SATOSHI said...

Thank you Dennis. For some reason, I thougt that it might actually work better without the images and if they kept the original quotations. Perhaps, I was just expecting more :-)


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