21 September, 2009

Concert Review: HKPO-EdW-Thibaudet

Concert Review: HKPO-EdW-Thibaudet

September 11, CCCH

Many people like me secretly love the Liszt concerti (particularly No. 1) and were honed on Richter/Kondrashin's legendary accounts (I also love Tamas Vasary). Not the "highest brow", but exciting they are when given a good performance. Which was exactly what we got in the lesser heard Concerto No. 2. Thibaudet, a surprising Lisztian, proved a strong and straightforward soloist who have the chops when demanded, much more exciting than his last appearance with the HKPO. The important orchestral contribution was disciplined, fierce and tightly integrated, quite the best EdW concerto performance I've heard. So this year we have been blessed by unusually satisfying concerti performances, which include Steuermann's AYO performances. let's hope the coming Rozdhestventsky concert shall deliver the same.

The Elgar Symphony No. 2 was more or less as expected. The orchestra was pushed to its limits and coped valiantly, but it was just not an idiomatic performance. The straightforward last movement fared the best. Elsewhere, the "ebbs and flows" of the music (this is quoting the program book, and if you know Elgar you know what the annotator is talking about) felt rather mannered. There was neither "Edwardian" splendor nor a particular breathing quality that good English conductors and orchestras convey (like Mark Elder in his excellent HKPO performance of Bach/Elgar of recent memory). Instead the music hovered closer to a kind of Wagnerian world. It has to be said this masterpiece to me is one of the most difficult to bring off even on records (replete with unidiomatic performances), and I am glad to have had a chance to hear it live.

Concert opened with a well played Dvorak Carnival overture that missed the fizz in the music.

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