Monday, April 23, 2012

REVIEW: Strauss, Adams, de Waart and HKPO

Cultural Centre Concert Hall, Saturday April 14

Life is good to allow me to attend this concert, yet life is not good enough to allow me the luxury to write about it. Work is definitely occupying a huge portion of my waking hours and all the more I value being able to go and hear HKPO. I will keep this short as I am behind in my writing.


Farewell to Edo: Dream Harmonies is de Waart second to last concert, BUT the tension is definitely in the air. The hall was definitely fuller than usual as some people who can’t get tickets to the finale concert, came to this one. The first half was devoted to Richard Strauss’ Don Quixote, Op. 35. Personally, while I am a big fan of Strauss, this piece is not really my cup of tea… in fact, I think it is nice silly little piece. This “Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character” while being one of his more complex orchestral score, I find its musical development forced and manufactured. Setting my personal bias aside, the performance was dignified, sympathetic and most importantly, not melo-dramatic. Richard Bamping gave an expressive and characterized performance of the solo part.

The second half was the real meat of the concert. John Adam’s Harmonielehre is a splendid and potent composition and de Waart and the HKPO went all out with it. The most stunning part of this performance was the way the sounds were balanced and subtly shifting while it went through the highs and lows. This subsequently not only highlighted the textures lucidly, but also provided that just-the-right-amount shimmer that straddled sophistication and brute power! What a magnificent performance!!!

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Edo de Waart Festival
Farewell to Edo - Dream Harmonies
13&14-4-2012 Fri & Sat 8PM
Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Programme
R STRAUSS: Don Quixote
JOHN ADAMS: Harmonielehre

Edo de Waart
conductor

Andrew Ling
viola

Richard Bamping
cello

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

REVIEW: Die Singphoniker - Just Songs! (Taipei)

Taipei National Concert Hall, Sunday April 1

In Asia, you might hear the name of the British male a cappella group King’s Singers before the German group Die Singphoniker; and this is primarily because the King’s Singers have been singing since 1968, while Die Singphoniker started in 1982. Most importantly; however, is that the recordings of the King’s Singers have always been easier to find. I think I own my first Singphoniker CD 5 years ago, while have been enjoying the King’s Singers since more than 20 years ago.


For this trip to Taiwan, I was able to catch Die Singphoniker at the Taipei National Concert Hall celebrating their 30th anniversary. They were also joined by the Taipei Male Choir, celebrating their 15th anniversary for the premiere of Enjott Schneider’s The Fire of Innocence in the Darkness of World.

The first half of the concert started with What a Wonderful This Would Be and proceeded with a varied programme that ranged from Dowland to Sting. The group brought me straight back to Berlin where I saw a musical about the Comedian Harmonists. The ensemble possessed a warm and colorful voice that expressed each song with great clarity. The balance was fine, but the sonority can be tighter. Peculiarly, I find the counter-tenor (Markus Geitner) and tenor (Daniel Schreiber) voices a tad too bright, while the bass (Christian Schmidt) line lacked more weight. Having said that, in songs where the tenor took on the melody and the rest of the group accompanied him, Schreiber was amazing. Schreiber sang with purity of voice and passion of heart.

The first half finished with Schneider’s The Fire of Innocence in the Darkness of World: Symphonic Poem for Soloists, Choir and Organ. Here, the Taipei Male Choir took on the role of the choir, while Die Singphoniker took up the various solo parts. Berno Scharpf of Die Singphoniker played the organ. Overall, it was a fine piece of music and I particularly find the combination and treatment of the voices most effective in conveying the text of William Blake. The strength of the works lies on Schneider’s ability to paint with sounds. My personal favorite was The Sick Rose where Geitner led with great intricacy.

The second half was once again a combination of songs. Unfortunately, this time, the programme was not listed in the book; thus I was busy writing them down. Comparatively, the mood was definitely lighter than the first half and the audience was most receptive. The evening closed with enthusiastic applause and call for more and Die Singphoniker didn’t disappoint.

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Programme:

What a wonderful world this would be
I love, alas, I love thee
Here comes the flood
I'vo piagendo
Sister Moon
Come heavy sleep
Dámours me va

The fire of innocence in the darkness of world: Symphonic poem for soloists, choir and organ

- interval -


I'll be there
All mein Gedanken, die ich hab
Cecilia
Loreley
Scarborough fair
Obladi, oblada
Je mis, je meurs
I wanna hold your hand
Overture of barber of seville

- encore -

Fly me to the moon
大眼睛
Marry a woman uglier than you

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

REVIEW: Dame Edna Everage Narrates Peter and the Wolf

City Hall Concert Hall, Saturday March 31

Though the concert had a clear kids focus, that didn't stop a lot of adults without kids flocking to the City Hall to see Dame Edna Everage in her farewell global tour.
This is my review of the Dame's performance with the City Chamber Orchestra for Time-Out Magazine. To view, please click here.

P.S. Interestingly, I was seated behind David Tang, who confirmed that indeed Dame Edna is his godmother upon my inquiry :-) Mr. Tang also graciously introduced me to Lizzie Spender (daughter of British poet Sir Stephen Spender), the wife of Dame Edna, I mean Barry Humphries :-)
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Dame Edna Everage Narrates Peter and the Wolf
March 31 2012
Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67
Haslam: Juanita the Spanish Lobster

Simon Over, conductor
City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong

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