Friday, January 28, 2011

REVIEW: Salad Days (London)

Riverside Studios, Thursday January 27




Totally by chance, I saw Salad Days advertised in one of the websites. Funny enough, this musical didn't even appear in any of the major London theatre websites. This production of Salad Days is a little gem. With limited set and props, this Tete A Tete production directed by Bill Bankes-Jones excelled through the pure talent of its cast. It was simple yet wonderfully entertaining.


Salad Days, by Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds premiered in 1954 (no wonder the average age of the audience was about 65!). It possesses a rather silly story about two new graduates planning their future and for some reason, a magic mobile piano and flying saucer got involved.

Playing the new graduates were Sam Harrison and Ellie Robertson. Harrison was an absolute pleasure to watch, he is a total performer who can sing, dance and act very well. Robertson, on the other hand, replaced the unavailable Katie Moore. While Robertson's performance was good, I can't help but notice that she was rough around the edges... some notes were just not quite right. I particularly like the performances of Mark Inscoe and Tony Timberlake for the various roles they played in the musical, making each role quite distinct and well thought out.

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Salad Days
by Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds

Creative Team:
Director: Bill Bankes-Jones
Music Director: Anthony Ingle
Designer: Tim Meacock
Lighting: Mark Doubleday
Choreography: Quinny Sacks

Cast:
PC Boot - Andrew Ahern
Troppo - Lee Boggess
Lady Raeburn - Rebecca Caine
Rowena - Charlie Cameron
Timothy - Sam Harrison
Tramp - Matthew Hawksworth
Uncle Zed - Mark Inscoe
Asphynxia - Kathryn Martin
Jane - Ellie Robertson
Nigel - Spencer O’Brien
Fiona - Tanya Stephens
Inspector - Tony Timberlake

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REVIEW: Midsummer: A Play with Songs (London)


Tricycle Theatre (London), Wednesday January 26


After a direct flight from Hong Kong to London, I went to see Midsummer (A Play with Songs) at the Tricycle Theatre. This Traverse Theatre Company production about two thirty-somethings doing what they know they shouldn't do was a bit too much for me. As the advertising said, "He's a failing car salesman on the fringes of the city's underworld and she's a high powered divorce lawyer with a taste for other people's husbands. She's out of his league and he's not her type at all. They absolutely should not sleep together. Ever. Ever. Which is why they do." This play by David Greig (also the director) and Gordon McIntyre (also the composer) is quite Edinburgh-centric... and that didn't help my jet-lag.

True to the title, this is more of a play, rather than a musical. The material can actually get away without having the songs, not that the songs were not good, they were just... songs... The play, on the other hand, was narrative in nature... Not exactly the form that one expects from a play... Aside from that, the theme, the story, the singing and the acting were quite good. The cast was composed of Cora Bissett (Helena) and Matthew Pidgeon (Bob), both were excellent, they were funny and believable.

Did I enjoy it? No. Would I recommend it? No. Would I see it again? Yes...it got very good reviews, maybe I was just too tired to enjoy it.

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Midsummer (a play with songs)
by David Greig & Gordon McIntyre
Presented by Traverse Theatre Company

Creative Team:
Director: David Greig
Composer: Gordon McIntyre
Designer: Georgia McGuinness
Lighting Designer: Claire Elliot

Cast:
Cora Bissett
Matthew Pidgeon

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Monday, January 24, 2011

REVIEW: Yevgeny Sudbin Debut Recital in Hong Kong

The strength of this recital lies on the intelligent and varied programming that showcased Yevgeny Sudbin’s unique pianism. Performing to a full house, this Premiere Performances recital featured Yevgeny Sudbin, one of the most successful young pianists today.

After interviewing Sudbin, I was able to attend his recital. Below is the link to my review for Time-Out Hong Kong:
http://www.timeout.com.hk/music/features/39923/yevgeny-sudbin-live.html

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Posted in Time-Out Hong Kong on January 24 2011

Yevgeny Sudbin Live
4 out of 5 stars

The strength of this recital lies on the intelligent and varied programming that showcased Yevgeny Sudbin’s unique pianism. Performing to a full house, this Premiere Performances recital featured Yevgeny Sudbin, one of the most successful young pianists today. The Russian’s debut CD of Scarlatti sonatas in 2005 was deservedly picked as an Editor’s Choice in iconic classical music magazine Gramophone and, in Horowitz fashion, he opened the recital with Scarlatti sonatas, in the F minor K466, in G major K455 and in B minor K27. All three were played appealingly with a distinct pianistic perspective, although at times they were a bit ponderous and lacked the lyrical quality of his recording.

What followed was a stark contrast. Shostakovich’s preludes in A minor Op. 34 no. 2, in B minor Op. 34 no. 6, in A flat Op. 34 no. 17and in D minor Op. 34 no. 24 were played with magic, mystery and mischief rather than with roughness and toughness, quite a compelling proposition.
The turning point came in the form of Chopin ballades No 3 in A flat major Op. 47 and No 4 in F minor Op. 52. What was so far a good performance turned into a great one. While the No 3 started a bit processed, it didn’t take long before Sudbin let the music take over. The results were intoxicatingly poetic with genuinely-felt rubato and inspired narrative.

The evening got even better with Liszt’s Transcendental Etude No. 11 in D flat “Harmonies du Soir” and Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit. The technique was impeccable, but the performance went beyond technique to astounding accomplishments of color, shade and poetry. In particular with Gaspard de la Nuit, Sudbin has the eerie ability to see beneath the surface of the music that gave a pictorial account that was full of imagination and almost upsetting. The evening was a remarkable Hong Kong debut for Sudbin indeed.

Satoshi Kyo

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

SATOSHI on Yevgeny Sudbin

Russian-born Yevgeny Sudbin is no Lang Lang or Yundi Li, not because he is a lesser pianist but because he has built a career ignoring the major international piano competition circuit. “I felt it was not the way to build a career, so I tried a different route,” he says over the phone from London.

He was in Hong Kong yesterday for a piano recital at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts. Below is the link to my interview with Yevgeny Sudbin for Time-Out Hong Kong, which was published in their January 19 issue.

http://www.timeout.com.hk/music/features/39888/yevgeny-sudbin.html
I did go to the recital and do check out the review which should come out in the next few days.

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Posted in Time-Out on January 19 2011

Yevgeny Sudbin

Satoshi Kyo chats to the Russian pianist about rivaling Horowitz

Russian-born Yevgeny Sudbin is no Lang Lang or Yundi Li, not because he is a lesser pianist but because he has built a career ignoring the major international piano competition circuit. “I felt it was not the way to build a career, so I tried a different route,” he says over the phone from London. Instead, Sudbin has simply wowed some of the most discriminating and influential critics in the classical music scene, and as described in the UK’s Daily Telegraph, “is already hailed as potentially one of the greatest pianists of the 21st century.”

Sudbin has been an acclaimed recording artist for several years now, since his debut CD of Scarlatti sonatas in 2005 – the first of 14 album collaborations with BIS records – was picked as an Editor’s Choice in iconic classical music magazine Gramophone, with the publication calling it “a magnificent solo debut and a Scarlatti recital to rival the best!” (The ‘best’ being none other than Horowitz, the very legend who popularised the Scarlatti sonatas). It’s fitting then that on Wednesday 19 Sudbin will open his debut Hong Kong recital with three Scarlatti sonatas. “I always enjoy opening a recital with a couple of Scarlatti sonatas. I think it is also a tradition because Horowitz used to do that and now other pianists often do it,” he says, also explaining his reasons for choosing the K466, K455 and K27 specifically. “They are three very, very different sonatas in character and musical idea; and you can do a lot with them in terms of mood and articulation.”

Accompanying Scarlatti in the first half of the recital will be four “sarcastic” Shostakovich preludes and two “tricky” Chopin ballades, followed after the interval by Liszt’s Transcendental Etude No. 11 in D flat “Harmonies du Soir” and Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit. On the Chopin ballades, he gingerly explains, “As a child, I found playing Chopin, in a way, was easier because I didn’t think too much. Now, I spend a lot of time thinking and analysing it; and when you start doing that, you become much more self-conscious and self-aware and I don’t know whether that does any good. The best performances of Chopin are when the pianist just plays how he feels; and that is when he can really touch the listener.”

Touching the listener seems to come relatively easily to Sudbin. What doesn’t come so effortlessly, it seems, is taking the praise of being “potentially one of the greatest pianists of the 21st century”. “I think that is the question that I get asked most often, but I don’t want to mention it because I try not to think about it,” he admits, after a quick intake of breathe. “My agent likes it a lot, but my own ambitions are quite modest and that is to play in halls that I feel comfortable playing in, with orchestras that I feel comfortable playing with and the pieces that I like.”

Yevgeny Sudbin performs at the APA on Wednesday 19. Tickets: 3128 8288; www.hkticketing.com.

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

REVIEW: Ran Jia with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra


HK Cultural Centre Concert Hall, Saturday January15

The concert was entitled, Haydn & Mozart: Ran Jia, The Piano Poetess. I could have sworn that I thought it was Elagar & Williams: David Atherton, The Master Painter.

Ran Jia, born in Chengdu, is the daughter of Professor Da-qun Jia (one of the leading composers in China and Dean of the Graduate Study Programs at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. She is currently studying with Gary Graffman at the Cutis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.


For this concert, she played Haydn’s Keyboard Concerto in D, Hob. XVIII:11 and Mozart’s Concert Rodo in D for piano and orchestra, K382. Not only was it her first time to be playing with the HKPO, it was her first time to be playing these two pieces in public… and it showed. She is a very competent pianist and she has very good ideas in her interpretation but they were notably premature… and almost unsure. I caught myself hoping that she will just go for it, not to mention that I kept wishing that I was hearing her play a different repertoire… perhaps Schubert or Schumann.


Elgar’s Cockaigne (In London Town), Op.40, on the other hand opened the concert with great aplomb. Atherton and the orchestra were on it with a combination of confidence and fun. The highlight of the evening though was the rarely heard Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 4 in F minor. Unlike Williams’ first three symphonies, it was not given a title. Williams stated that it was to be understood as “pure music”. As “pure music”, the work is interesting and innovative, almost like hearing Beethoven after a series of Mozarts. Once again, Atherton and the orchestra were cohesive and determined to paint a picture full of colors, both in broad strokes and fine details.

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REVIEW: Don Pasquale in The Metropolitan Opera HD Live


Bethanie’s Wellcome Theatre, Saturday January 8

I have a feeling that this performance of Don Pasquale will not be one of the highlights of The Metropolitan Opera HD Live. Don’t get me wrong, it was not bad at all, it’s just that it’s the wrong opera in the wrong opera house, with the wrong production sang by wrong singers. The only thing that saved it was the fact that each element, on its own, was very good. The only right thing about it was the conductor and the orchestra. I would really hate to pay US$400 to see this opera live at the MET!

Donizetti’s Don Pasquale is a comic opera in the tradition of commedia dell’arte. It is about the young man Ernesto, who because is in love with Norina, refused to marry a “more suitable” woman chosen for him by his rich uncle Don Pasquale. But with the help of Dr. Malatesta though, Ernesto was able to marry Norina with the blessing of Don Pasquale.

Playing Norina was the opera superstar Anna Netrebko. She offered a very visually enticing portrayal while vocally, the bel canto style was left to play second fiddle. Marius Kwiecien, as the master mind Dr. Malatesta, was the perfect playmate for Netrebko. While his voice and style may be a bit more ideal, his partnership with Netrebko just oozed with enchanting charm.

Tenor Matthew Polenzani was a pleasant surprise. Polenzani tone was even and sweet; and his delivery was sincere and believable. The towering John Del Carlo, as Don Pasquale, was a solid bass-baritone with enough comic arsenals to dispatch.

Otto Schenk’s production was pretty but clunky. The scene change took forever. James Levine’s conducting was clear, vivid and perky.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

SATOSHI on Music Painting - Lacrime di Giulietta

I saw this posted on my facebook and thought that it is one of the most beautiful and amazing thing I have seen this year... okay... it is just January 12 so far...

This video features the music of Matteo Negrin entitled "Lacrime di Giulietta" (Giulietta's Tear), which is from his cd album entitled "Glocal Sound". The idea of this video came from Matteo Negrin, while written and directed by Luca Cattaneo (who also edited) and Alice Ninni (who also did the painting).

The bauty of this work is its simplicity and its ability to communicate and keep you engaged. While there is no profound idea or message, the execution was full of wonders. With a lot of patience and a bit of modern technology in editing, it put across a sense of sincere pleading and understanding.

ENJOY!!!



MUSIC PAINTING - Glocal Sound - Matteo Negrin from Lab on Vimeo.

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