Friday, September 28, 2012

REVIEW: Maxim Rysanov Viola Recital

City Hall Concert Hall, Thursday September 20

Co-presented by Premiere Performances and Hong Kong Sinfonietta, Hong Kong welcomed Ukrainian vilolist Maxim Rysanov.

The dilemma of original repertoire for viola is a long-standing one. Indeed, it is in short supply, and despite the instrument’s irresistible allure, which has attracted the likes of Eugène Ysaÿe, David Oistrakh, Yehudi Menuhin and Pinchas Zukerman to publicly perform or record on the alto, transcriptions are a regular feature of a violist’s programme.

To see my review of the recital for Time-Out Hong Kong, please click here.

Maxim Rysanov (viola) with Jacob Kastnelson (piano)
September 20 2012
Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

BACH (Simon Rowland-Jones arr): Suite for Unaccompanied Cello No. 3 (Viola Solo)
MARTINU: Sonata for Viola and Piano, H355
-- Interval --
BRAHMS: Scherzo from F.A.E. Sonata
DEBUSSY (Borisovsky arr): Clair de Lune
DEBUSSY (Borisovsky arr): La fille aux cheveux de lin
RAVEL (Borisovsky arr): Pavane pour une Infante Défunte
FAURÉ (Rysanov arr): Elégie, Op. 24
DUBUGNON: Incantatio for Viola and Piano

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

REVIEW: Potted Potter - The Unauthorized Harry Experience

HKAPA Drama Theatre, Tuesday September 18

I was invited to join HKELD (pronounced 'heckled') and this is my first review for this new specialist online webzine. The site is aimed at English speakers and it is dedicated to "promoting what’s on, what’s good and where things are in Hong Kong’s developing performing arts scene."

What started out as a five-minute street show recapping the plot of the first five Potter books, to lines of avid fans waiting for the midnight release of the sixth book in 2005 is now a full flown 70-minute show and was nominated as Best Entertainment & Family Show in the 2012 Olivier Awards.

The promo brochure advertises, "all seven Harry Potter books in seventy hilarious minutes!” Well... not really... well except for the hilarious part.

To read the rest of my review in HKELD, click HERE.


“All seven Harry Potter books in seventy hilarious minutes!” says the ad. Well that was not the case, except the hilarious part.

In the tradition of shows like The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), The Complete History of America (abridged) and The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged), all of which have been performed in Hong Kong. Potted Potter attempted to tell the story of all seven Harry Potter books in a series of goofy comedy sketches. This time, however, it came in the form of an eager expert (performed by Gary Trainor) trying to present the highlights of the books while a wicked faker (performed by Jesse Briton) sabotages his each and every effort.

This parody, written and created by Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, started with Briton not getting the right set and the 20 finest actors needed to play the more than 300 characters in J.K. Rowling's books. In lieu of this, the audience would just have to deal with Briton’s silly antics as he tries to be everything and everybody, while Trainor gets cross and indignant.

The silliness factor in the show was off the charts. It was not a show of sophisticated wit or intelligent satire. For the adults, it was “interesting” at best. For the kids however, judging from their loud and boisterous laughter, it must be hilarious!

The highlight of the show must be the Quidditch, the competitive game played by the rival factions Gryffindor and Slytherin. In this case, the audience was divided into two competing teams as they battle out a beach ball. For a moment, the kids were able to release some of their pent-up energy to good effect. For a moment, the scene reminded me of Russian clown Slava Polunin’s Snowshow that was presented in 1997 in Hong Kong to mediocre effect.

Overall, it was a children’s show. Bring your or somebody else’s kid to it and hopefully, you will be blissfully content to see them laugh so heartily.

Potted Potter is playing at the HKAPA, Drama Theatre in Wanchai September 18th-30th at various showtimes.

Potted Potter - The Unauthorized Harry Experience
A Parody by Dan and Jeff
Produced by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, Potted Productions and ABA Productions

Creative Team:
Daniel Clarkson, writer/creator
Jefferson Turner, writer/creator
Richard Hurst, director
Simon Scullion, set designer
Tim Mascall, lighting designer

Jesse Briton
Gary Trainor

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

REVIEW: Eroica! with HKPO

Cultural Centre Concert Hall, Saturday September 15

The German poet Gottfried August Bürger has inspired several composers such as Franz Schubert, Franz Liszt, Henri Duparc and Richard Strauss. César Franck was no exception and he wrote Le Chasseur maudit ("The Accursed Huntsman"), based on Bürger's ballads, Der wilde Jäger. This symphonic poem is a graphic as it gets. The music tells the story in a very clear-cut manner that I feel any analysis will be most unnecessary. Personally, the work is not my cup of tea. The HKPO, led by maestro Antoni Wit, did however produce a very good reading that was dramatic and not melo-dramatic. Antoni Wit cuts a fine and elegant figure on stage; his gestures were reserved yet effective.

Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor, Op.22 followed featuring the Argentinean pianist Ingrid Fliter. The concerto, widely considered as Saint-Saëns’ most popular, is an "interesting” piece with whimsical changes in style which pretty much serves to showcase the pianist. In fact, the unpredictable changes provoked Polish pianist and composer Zygmunt Stojowski to joke that it "begins with Bach and ends with Offenbach." Fliter’s distinctive flair with a dash of flirt and fun on top of her virtuosity was most fitting of the work. Applause came in abundance and audience was richly rewarded with Chopin’s Nocturne in D-flat major and Waltz in D-flat major.

The title performance came after the interval. For some reason, I feel that the opening movement was a tad slow, which robbed the beautifully detailed performance the vivacity and agitation that would have contrasted it more with the second movement. The Marcia funèbre is a fine example of consolatory warmth and civility, a picture of somber seriousness rather than emotional out-pour. The Scherzo and Finale fared better and actually sounded less tense and lighter on its feet. Even so, both movements managed to epitomize classical tradition but with a dose of romantic style. It is also worth mentioning that the brass and especially the woodwind did HKPO proud in this symphony. Overall, maestro Wit and HKPO provided a very enjoyable performance.

14&15-9-2012 Fri & Sat 8PM
Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

FRANCK: The Accursed Hunter
SAINT-SAËNS: Piano Concerto No.2
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No.3 Eroica

Antoni Wit, conductor
Ingrid Fliter, piano

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: Yundi Li with the HKPO

Cultural Centre Concert Hall, Saturday September 8

It was almost three months since I have heard HKPO played and I have to say I was actually surprised that I missed them! For their season opening, they have invited Yundi Li to perform Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1. When I heard about this, I was most concerned as I had one of the most memorable concert-going experience in hearing Boris Berezovsky played the same piece with HKPO led by Perry So in 2010 (and in a less memorable concert - Joyce Yang with HKPO led by Edo de Waart in 2011). I am not so sure why... perhaps it was my age and I had a "good old days" moment... or perhaps I was worried that I will be clouded by my extraordinary experience... in any case, one has to face the music and make a position and here's mine in TIME-OUT HONG KONG.

Please click HERE to see my review.

Yundi’s Tchaikovsky
12/13 Season Opening Concerts
7&8-9-2012 Fri & Sat 8PM
Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

SHOSTAKOVICH: Festive Overture
TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No.1

Vassily Sinaisky, conductor
Yundi, piano

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