30 January, 2010

Concert Review: HKPO-Trcepski-Lu Jia

Concert Review: HKPO/Trcepski/Lu Jia

Jan 29, 2010, CCCH
HKPO/Simon Trpceski/Lu Jia
All Rachmaninov

Macedonian pianist Simon Trpceski is a star on the international circuit, and it's good that he continues his traversal of Rachmaninov here. The partnership with Lu Jia proved a match made in heaven.

The Piano Concerto No.1 was actually substantially revised after Rachmaninov's hugely successful N0. 2 and 3 (more on its history here). It's an unjustly neglected work on the concert platform. Ever since I heard the Richter recording on a cheap Monitor LP over 20 years ago I have loved it, and over the years it has eclipsed the No. 2 (but not quite the No. 3) in my esteem due to its concision. Even fresh off 2 library CDs of this concerto (Zimerman and Berezovsky; see previous post) I still found this live performance refreshing. This not so "romantic" piece quite matched Trpceski, who has all all the chops needed for anything but who prefers to hone his skills on producing chiselled tones and a sense of spontaneity. The same can be said of the Variations on a Theme by Paganini, which Trpceski played sometimes with a little injection of almost jazzy feeling. This performance far outstripped the lackluster one by Dejan Lazic and Atherton 2 years ago.

Important to the success of the 2 concerti were the contributions by orchestra and conductor. Lu Jia again proved himself a great accompanist. There was a good sense of give-and-take, enjoyment and dialogue. Except for somewhat subdued winds, orchestral playing was smart and snappy.

The wonderful program opened with the dark Prince Rotislav, a piece I have loved ever since I first heard it on a library CD. The hushed opening and soft brass playing was quite magical; so were the successive storms. Closing the program was the lesser but rousing Caprice Bohemian. In both tone poems Lu Jia showed considerable skills in moulding and color-painting.

The concert was broadcasted live by RTHK4, and the program shall be repeated on Feb 3rd (wed), at 2 pm.

26 January, 2010

CDs From The Hong Kong Public Library: Listening Log (2)

CDs From The Hong Kong Public Library: Listening Log (2)

(From Taipo)
Krystian Zimerman's Rachmaninov Piano Concerto 1+2 (DG) has garnered praise, but I find both the recording and performance poorly balanced (like his even more recent Brahms). Partnership and performance by the younger Zimerman with Boston SO/Ozawa is a lot better in Liszt's Piano Concerto 1+2 (DG). Boris Berezovsky's performances of Rachmaninov's 1+4+Paganini (Mirare) strike me as much more satisfying in performance and sound (2 of these playing this week by the HKPO). I have never heard of the Ural SO nor the conductor Dimitri Liss, but their contribution is idiomatic and first class.

Buried in the bargain 2-CD set(Capriccio) under the mundance title "Russian Violin Concertos" (filed under "RUS") are TOP performances by the seriously under-rated Bulgarian Stoika Milanova, a pupil of Oistrakh. The Prokofiev and Shostakovich concertos are all top-class. Only the Tchaikovsky is performed by Viviane Hagner. While slavic soloists rarely fail me, the rather flat Schubert CD by Russian cellist Leonid Gorokhov (AGPL) certainly was uninspiring. Partner Demidenko is rather coarse.

The library is a good starting place also to explore less known music. Julius Rontgen's 3 cello concertos (Et'cetera) are wonderfully entertaining and deserve a place in the repertorie. Many libraries have a huge series of (mostly Supraphon) Martinu, all in wonderful performances and sound. His harpsicord works (some concertante) (filed under "KNO") are curiosities but interesting.

I have never heard of Tanja Becker-Bender, but everything the reviews said of her Paganini 24 Caprices (Hyperion) is true. A wonderful CD with a fantastic cover painting (more info here). I have always liked Elizabeth Wallfisch, but in her comprehensive Locatelli "Art of the Violin" CD set (Hyperion), neither she nor the orchestra measure up to the sparkling playing of smaller offerings from the likes of Giuliano Carmignola (Sony).

(From City Hall)
On (Chandos), Valerie Polyansky has come in for a lot of bad reviews on the net, but I often find some salvation in the beautifully contoured playing of the Russian State Symphony orchestra. His Rachmaninov Symphony 2 is a bit turgid, not for those who like things to move along. Sound is somewhat murky.

(From Tsuen Wan)
Osmo Vanska's (BIS) Beethoven Symphonies 4+5 and Symphony 9 both offer wonderful playing that's full of tensile strength and rhythmic felicities. The SACD/CDs are beautiful sounding. Too bad the library does not have the rest of the cycle. BIS is offering the cycle at mid-price. I've ordered a set.

23 January, 2010

CDs From The Hong Kong Public Library: Listening Log (1)

CDs From The Hong Kong Public Library: Listening Log (1)

Note: With this post I'm creating a new series. In the past I've written more detailed "Listening Logs", but it's all too time-consuming to compose and load pics. With this new series, I shall be introducing CDs available in the HKPL libraries. I shall indicate where I have borrowed the CD, though it may be available in other branches. To save time I shall post links to pics rather than load pics of everything.

Exciting String players, mostly young
It's not easy to make a good album out of small pieces. Waxman's Carmen Fantasie opens Lara St John's Gypsy (WellTempered) (from City Hall), and it captured me immediately due to the marvelous pianism of "accompanist" Ilan Rechtman. The fiddling ain't bad either! The recording is absolutely stunning; the pizzicati just leap at you! This hugely enjoyable CD brings back memory of the wonderful Tianwa Yang's Sarasate (Naxos Volume 1; Volume 2) (available in many branches, including City Hall), all musts for violin fans. These I enjoy more than Chloe Hanslip's Bazzini (Naxos) as I find this composer a little monochromatic. It's amazing how many people only listen to the "soloist" and ignore the contribution of the accompanying musician(s). Think Heifetz: his orchestra's and conductors provide him with superb frameworks missing from much of their modern counterparts.

The library is suffused with Szymanowski CDs. Ever since I heard the magnificent (but much under-rated and neglected) Wanda Wilkomirska play the Violin Concertos (still benchmarks) I have become a fan of this composer. Ilya Kaler (Naxos) (City Hall) plays both concerti, whereas the very young and talented Nicola Benedetti (DG) (Tuen Mun) plays only the No. 1. Both CDs have excellent performances. The piano music is not to be missed either. Piotr Andreszewski's Masques and Piano Sonata 3 (Virgin) (City Hall) are spellbinding and given a superb recording.

Christian Poltera's Otmar Schoeck CD (BIS) (City Hall) shows a very fine player, and the music is rewarding. I think the library has his other BIS CDs, which I shall surely check out.

If you like baroque guitar music other than Bach (like Weiss and Pachebel etc) you might like Goran Sollscher's Eleven-String Baroque (DG) (City Hall). The sonority of the beefy instrument is interesting, but in the same repertoire I prefer the playing of lutist Hopkinson Smith (Harmonia Mundi). As for the guitar, how come few can play with the soul of Segovia?

I am not a fan of Lorin Maazel, but his VPO Mahler's 5th (Sony) (City Hall) is superb. The playing of the VPO is nonpareil; you simply hear more details. Despite occasional highlighting, sound is excellent. As you might expect, this is not a heart-on-sleeve interpretation but it's a penetrating one. Three of us listened to almost the whole thing Saturday afternoon!

01 January, 2010

主编的话:2010 “后 97“ 年代


“... 可以说,八十年代结束于1989年。八十年代早结束了一年。 1976年结束了七十年代,七十年代早结束了四年。 不过,算上1976年后的四年,八十年代有十三年。 七十年代呢,从1966年算起,有十年,所谓十年“无产阶级文化大革命”。按 decade 划分,不准确,不符合。人生不是猪肉,不可以这样一刀一刀按斤切..."

那我们香港的零零年代呢?我认为应该称为 “后 97“ 年代, 还没结束,漫长的等待但愿不会以悲剧画上句号。我是不乐观的

回到音乐,与很多其他的东西一样,这 "十年" decade 最大的改变来自网络。也跟其他的东西一样, 这有好有坏。好的是资讯多了,人多了,联络频繁了; 坏的是不好的资讯也多了,转载泛滥, 平庸的音乐家居然会被捧为〈大师〉,分裂多了也就分薄了力量,一般素质越来越差, 更流于肤浅。 在某些网页上,有贡献的文字比恶毒攻击更稀少,场面靠一些 CD/LP 封面支撑。可叹!

在这浮华的年代,有心人只好默默地用自己的经验和方法在海里捞针, 能做好自己的就很好了!这个 Blog 开办才一年多, 没太多的时间打理,希望新的一年能更实际地为大家带来更充实的内容。 我欢迎读者给我意见 (doctorjohn@myself.com)。

我在香港的时候, 每星期都会过深圳。那里没有电脑, 没法写东西以至很多题材只能装在脑里。如果一切没变的话,我希望今年能在那里搞一台方便自己。现在是太多东西想写,时间却太少。

自 从〈掌心雷〉手写板报废了后,都在用简体拼音法输入中文, 一方面因为母语是国语能适应,另一方面也能令自己的发音更进步,一举两得。以往会用翻译器翻成繁体,可是有些字,像〈最后〉的〈后〉或 〈这里〉的〈里〉, 是翻不过来的, 只能成为繁体里的白字 (一些中英文都糟糕透的猢狲还曾为此大造文章, 煞是可笑)。其实我也嫌烦,就索性用简体吧, 反正一家,而文章重要的还是内容, 创新和表达。当然,有时间的话, 我是会想学个繁体的键盘输入法, 毕竟繁体字好看,也是传统。

在此祝各位 Happy New Year! 展望每个香港人能最后自己说了算!

附:《七十年代按这里 按这里 可看部分。张郎郎宁静的地平线〉一篇 非看不可;里面有个死囚的爱情故事,令人看了唏嘘不止, 痛入心肺。这书最好能买下,以便慢慢细嚼。书里面有许多小故事,对于国家,个人,以及自由民主的反思与响往, 还有受害者表达出来的宽恕与宏观 , 更令人动容。反之,充斥香港网上, 用来攻击人的〈爱国〉,〈爱港〉,〈黄白〉论调, 每每显得表面, 而因缺乏对自身及历史的认知更为可怕。