|Dutch pianist Ronald Brautigam|
After the playful and short Symphony No. 34 in C, K338 by Mozart, the stage was rearranged to accommodate a grand piano and the soloist walked on stage.
I loved his mop of white hair that reminded me of those Bugs Bunny cartoons that had a conductor with a similar mane who was like a mad scientist leading the orchestra in frenzied choreographed movements with hair and arms all over the place.
However Brautigam was very civilized and periodically brushed his hair aside as he played at the piano complete with tuxedo tails. His playing was effortless and displayed a whole range while playing Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25.
Online there isn't much information about Brautigam, but he is one of Holland's leading musicians, known for not only his virtuosity, but also his eclectic musical interests.
He studied in Amsterdam, London and the United States with Rudolf Serkin, and in 1984, Brautigam was honoured with the Dutch Music Prize, the highest Dutch musical award.
He not only plays the piano, but also the fortepiano and performs with leading Baroque orchestras and plays with chamber music groups.
Meanwhile Mendelssohn was no slouch himself -- a well known violinist, pianist, organist, conductor and composer. Not only that he was known to be a strong swimmer, talented poet and painter, and was fluent in several languages. Definitely a Renaissance man.
This piano concerto was written when Mendelssohn was 22, thus revealing romantic young and playful themes.
Afterwards the audience clapped so much that Brautigam came out at least four times before he finally sat down and played a short encore... I am making an educated guess that it was Grieg...
Following the intermission, guest conductor Paul McCreesh led the orchestra in another hopping piece, Schubert's Rosamunde, D797. Dressed in a Mandarin jacket, McCreesh almost looked like he was happily skipping in his place for this ballet music. YTSL couldn't help but giggle every time he did that.
However the mood changed with the last work of the evening, Beethoven's Symphony No. 8 in F, Op.93. And as expected, the music was full of drama, building up tension that was finally released at the end.
While probably not one of the best performances put on by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, it did leave us all in a happy mood.