30 March, 2010

Concert review: SZO-Ehwald-Mahler 1st

Concert review: SZO/Ehwald/Mahler 1st

March 12, 2010, SZ Concert Hall
Shenzhen SO/Christain Ehwald/Zhang Le 张乐

The past month has been really busy and I have been too busy to keep up. This is written from NYC.

For the last two months and more, there has been a complete lack of information about upcoming concert events of the SZO from their nearly useless website. Well, I thought to myself, maybe it's just the Chinese New Year. But then well into March and nothing. I was beginning to think crazy things, like, has the SZO suffered a political turmoil? Insufficient funding? Who knows!

I was preparing for my trip back to NYC and decided not to go to the Ashkenazy concert on Friday. But on that morning, I checked and was astonished to find that that evening there was the SZO inaugural concert for the Spring season, and Mahler no less! I re-shuffled my engagements and headed north late afternoon.

The opener was the Brahms Violin Concerto with concertmaster 张乐 as soloist (Wang Sze Hang acted as guest concertmaster). This was my second experience of this piece with this orchestra, the first being in 2008 (read review here)! In this very different venue, 张乐 actually sounded better and sweeter in tone than the previous soloist Chen Xi 陈曦, and he certainly did not break a string. He was notably smoother and his playing had a better breath. The accompaniment was excellent. However, overall a little tension is lacking.

I was relieved when I saw the large orchestra for the Mahler 1st. Perhaps there has been no funding cut? The performance was pretty much as expected for this conductor (review of Mahler 6th here). Firm grip of architecture, excellent balance and grading of dynamics.The opening pianissimo was ravishing but not quite mysterious or brooding enough. The climaxes were a little congested, and the tympani sounded distorted in my seat (a little further back in the orchestra than usual) during the pandemonium opening of the fourth movement. The brass did a very good job and the winds were solid. Huang Zheng has left for the Macau Orchestra, but the acting first desk oboe lady has always been very good and there was nothing to worry.

Again, what a horrible administration! Updating the website only shortly before the season begins? Asinine! However, I glanced at the schedule and there are quite a few things later in the season that is attractive. Stay tuned.

p.s. The 面点王 restaurant inside 书城 is a good place for a pre-concert meal. You can have a light one, or a heavy one, as you wish.