Friday, October 29, 2010

Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra – Edo de Waart, conductor; Chen Sa, piano. October 29, 2010.

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall, Front Stalls (Seat L27, HK$320).

Program – All Schumann (1810-1856)
Manfred: Overture, Op. 115
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54
Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120 (First Version 1841)

We went with the Laws to this concert. We had dinner at the City Hall Restaurant (run by Maxim); surprisingly inexpensive, and surprisingly bland.

I am still amazed at how small the City Hall Concert Hall is, it has about 30 rows in the main section. The seats are reasonably comfortable though.

Hong Kong was called a “cultural desert” when I was growing up, by the number of empty seats in the hall today (by my estimation nearly 25% of seats were empty) the name still applies. This program will be repeated on Saturday, let’s hope the weekend brings in more people.

Overall this is a satisfying concert. I am not a fan of Schumann, and am not familiar with his music. It is generally quite romantic in sound, and the proximity of our seats to the stage made it sound quite intimate also.

The piano concerto begins with a soft introduction by the clarinet (or was it the oboe, I don’t remember). It was so tentative that I thought it was a cell phone ringing. The theme sounded very familiar, and most of the time the interplay between the soloist and the orchestra was good. Every now and then they seemed to be off doing their own thing, though. The three movements are (i) Allegro affettuoso; (ii) Intermezzo (Andantino grazioso); and (iii) Allegro vivace. The Program kept saying this concerto isn't a virtuoso piece, but it sounded virtuoso enough.

The pianist is from China, has taken fourth place in many competitions, and has played with many well-known orchestras (mostly in the US). She played a very romantic piece by Schumann while he was courting Clara. (From what I could tell.)

The Symphony was relatively short at an advertised 26 minutes (I think it was shorter than that.) The four movements are (i) Andante con moto; (ii) Romanza (Andante); (iii) Scherzo (Presto) – Trio; and (iv) Finale (Allegro vivace). They were played without pause. The first three movements were relatively short, and the last longer than expected. It was generally performed with spirit, although the fast passages sometimes felt a little rushed.

Generally a pleasant concert. Anne had trouble with her jet lag and busy few days, even the candy bought during intermission didn’t help her to stay fully awake.

We caught the #75 bus right next to City Hall back to the hotel; it didn’t take long at all.

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