Wednesday, September 18, 2013

REVIEW: Hong Kong Philharmonic and Jean-Yves Thibaudet

Cultural Centre Concert Hall, Saturday September 7

I was hoping that my three-month exile from classical music will relieve me from the ennui I had for classical music. It was with great excitement that the 40th anniversary season opening gala has arrived. My “concert” friends and I met up for dinner to celebrate the season opening before going to the gala... very exciting.

The evening opened with Bright Sheng’s Shanghai Overture, an exercise adopting Stravinsky’s neo-Classical styles and techniques; and applying them to two well-known traditional Chinese compositions, General’s Degree and Purple Bamboo. The initial impulse and reaction was to dissect and analyze; but once I tired of it, the music was actually more satisfying. The development of the language swept with fluidity and energy; and the orchestra gave a very informed performance.

Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto that followed is a bit trickier as it is one of those over-exposed pieces that for a performance to truly stand-out, it has to create that perfect balance of remaining within the style yet deliver an interpretation that is confidently idiosyncratic. With that, Thibaudet and the HKPhil, led by Jaap van Zweden, managed to be plain. The 1st movement was peculiarly lacking in tightness, while the second and third movement fared better with a bit more personality and lucidity.

The highlight of the evening was Dvorak’s New World Symphony. While, the piece itself was a boring choice, the performance was actually outstanding. The contrasting and flowing transitions were wonderfully and sensitively handled by van Zweden. In particular, the solo (cor anglais) by Kwan Sheung-fung was achingly heart-felt.

Overall, it was not THAT exciting at all, BUT I still look forward to next HKPhil concert.
Season Opening Gala: Emperor and New World
6&7-9-2013 Fri & Sat 8PM
Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall


BRIGHT SHENG Shanghai Overture
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto no. 5 Emperor
DVOŘÁK Symphony no. 9 From the New World

Jaap van Zweden, conductor
Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano

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