Ning Feng is a crowd favourite in Hong Kong and he loves us too
Now that my office is in Times Square in Causeway Bay, I take the MTR to work and walk up the slope to get out of the station. On the way there are many posters and one of them was called "Scottish Fantasy" featuring violinist Ning Feng -- YTSL's favourite musician.
I finally remembered to tell her about it over a week ago and she was very surprised to hear about it because she keenly looks out for concerts she's interested in. We didn't know what the ticket situation would be like so I bought them right away -- third row from the stage!
There were still front row tickets too, but we didn't want to be that close.
In the end it turned out there was no one in front of us so in a way we did have front row seats. The concert wasn't that well advertised -- a last-minute addition? And also it's the tail-end of Qing Ming and Rugby Sevens is on. As a result the concert hall wasn't packed, which was a bit disappointing, but we were in for a treat.
Ning has played many times with the HKPO
First up, An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise, op. 120 by Peter Maxwell Davies. We didn't quite know what was going on here -- bits of tunes were stitched together like a patchwork quilt and didn't necessarily go together sound-wise. It was hard to follow at times. But at the end conductor Yu Long looked behind him and we heard a bag piper, Robert Jordan -- in full uniform from the back of the concert hall and walk down the stairs by us and then up to the stage.
Next Ning came out to perform Scottish Fantasy, op. 46 by Max Bruch. The violinist looked like he'd lost a bit of weight and wearing his signature untucked black shirt and trousers. The music was fun and had a strong Scottish theme, but it wasn't very challenging for Ning.
After the performance he came out with his violin and spoke to the audience. In English he said that he loves playing in Hong Kong and in particular with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. He said for piano there are many pieces to choose from for an encore, but not violin -- it's either Bach or Paganini.
He asked the audience what they'd like to hear and some said "both", but he asked us to put up our hands for Bach (not many), and then Paganini (a lot). So which Paganini piece? YTSL said God Save the King along with another audience member, but Ning wasn't too keen to do that. He conferred with the concertmaster Jing Wang before deciding on Paganini's Caprice no. 24. Here is a version of it he played many years ago.
We were spellbound while he played it with gusto -- at one point he was plucking the strings with his left hand so quickly and effortlessly while his bow struck the strings that we couldn't help but clap. He still had his bow up, ready to continue playing -- when we stopped.
It was nice to be able to watch him up close -- he was very much enjoying the music and fusing together with his instrument and having a good time.
After the intermission it was Symphony no. 3 in A minor, op. 56, Scottish by Felix Mendelssohn. There were five movements here and while we enjoyed the playing, we couldn't help but wonder if more could have been done to create more tone in terms of volume. Everything was mezzo forte and louder, but what about creating more contrast in volume to make things more interesting?
Nevertheless, a good evening out -- the concert finished just after 10pm. But we couldn't find a quiet spot for drinks after!