Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Musical Treat

Cho-liang Lin hopes more people will enjoy chamber music
Tonight was the start of The Hong Kong International Chamber Music festival 2012 at the City Hall Concert Hall.

The artistic director Cho-Liang Lin is a exuberant speaker, very passionate about music and keen to introduce music lovers to chamber music.

"Chamber music often represents the best of many of the greatest composers, including many of the composers that we will be playing in the Festival such as Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms. I hope the audience and younger musicians can all realize how much beauty there is to explore beyond the normal orchestral, operatic or recital realm... Chamber music is the greatest training to develop the ability to listen to others playing with you, and teaches us all how to collaborate with others," he writes in the program.

The Taiwanese-American violinist has worked on this project for over a year, and even the most organized director cannot foresee last minute challenges. Two main artists, violinist Kyoko Takezawa and cellist Gary Hoffman could not make it due to medical issues and had to be replaced literally at the last minute.

But you wouldn't know it from the amazing performances that left the audience energized.

First up was a dramatic piece by Osvaldo Golijov called Last Round, which is presented in two movements. The first is lively and sultry, inspired to Argentine tango, while the second is reflective, as it pays tribute to Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla who passed away four years before the piece was written.

Golijov describes the piece like this:

Two quartets confront each other, separated by the focal brass, with violins and violas standing up as in the traditional tango orchestra. The bows fly in the air as inverted legs in criss-crossed choreography, always attracting and repelling each other, always in danger of clashing, always avoiding it with the immutability that can only be acquired by transforming hot passion into pure pattern.

That's hot.

Suite for Four Violins and Bass by Paizzolla followed, another energetic piece that also had a tango touch, something he is well known for. He created Nuevo Tango, which went back and forth between popular and classical music.

The piece was very enjoyable and technically brilliant, sexy and classy.

Just before intermission was Giovanni Bottesini's Grand Duo Concertante for Double Bass and Violin.

Ning Feng was the star of the evening
Rising star Ning Feng took to the stage with Zhang Daxun on double bass. It was interesting to watch this musical dialogue between these two instruments as it's rare to see the double bass given such a prominent spot on stage.

Ning practically stole the show, and has fast become a favourite in Hong Kong after his debut last year. He's from Chengdu, Sichuan province and in June 2003 he was the first student ever to be given a perfect score for his final recital in the nearly 200 years of Royal Academy of Music history.

Definitely a showstopper.

After the intermission we were treated to Vivaldi's Four Seasons complete with readings of poems for each of the seasons, something I've never heard before.

Then each of the four violin soloists took turns taking centre stage for each of the seasons, starting with Norwegian Henning Kraggerud, Cho-liang Lin, Korean Clara-Jumi Kang, and then Ning again.

A harpsichord accompanied the strings to give it a more authentic sound.

The audience enjoyed the rousing performances so much we were treated to an encore, of a piece rewritten for four violins by Brahms.

The festival continues until January 19 and tonight was an amazing start. I am one of those who usually attends symphonies and this concert definitely opened my eyes and ears to the wonders of chamber music.

The Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival 2012
January 11-19

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