29 June, 2010
June 27, 2010, CH
Piotr Anderszewski recital 彼得.安德塞斯基
Hard on the heels of Zimerman came his compatriot Piotr Anderszewski, another serious Polish pianist who has garnered accolades everywhere.
Although Anderszewski is not as well known in HK, and ticket prices were a lot cheaper than Zimerman's, many in the know regard him as a pianist's pianist. The recital took place Sunday evening and the hall was mostly full, in an austere program typical of the pianist.
The pianist is an interesting fellow. Make sure you visit his Official website. His hero is Richter and make sure you read that link. Indeed Bruno Monsaigeon, who made a film on Richter, thought highly enough of him to have made one on Anderszewski too. The website also contains many concert reviews, where you shall find many of the same pieces played at this concert. I shall cite just two:
Carnegie Hall concert 2008 (Beethoven Op110)
London 2005 (Szymanowski Metopes)
Anderszewski took a while to settle into Bach's English Suite No. 5. Although the voicing was perfect and one could hear every strand, I missed a certain joie de vivre that others, say, Perahia, can convey. This music should dance more. Then came Schumann's Six Etudes in Canonic Form, where the pianist came to his elements, finding plenty of poetry and color even in the austerity. This rare work is a curiosity, written for the pedal piano (read more in this link) (apparently, a piano fitted with extra pedal keys like organ, to be played with the feet). I have no idea how it is adapted/transcribed to be played with just 2 hands. I found it of grave beauty, deserving to be heard more often.
The second half began with Szymanowski's Metopes. This atmospheric score by the Polish composer is one of his calling cards and needless to say it was wonderful. With this pianist, every strand is in place, and even the more lurid and perfumed episodes sounded colorful but not vulgar, more impressionistic than sensual.
Beethoven's Sonata No. 31, Op 110 received an immaculate reading. With superb composure, voicing was lucid and much detail was revealed over its span. However, I missed a sense of struggle and would have preferred more pointing in some of Beethoven's more jagged, even jazz-like, rhythms. This interpretation revealed more the ethereal elements and repose.
The first encore, Bartok's Three Hungarian Folksongs, was spectacularly energized and singing, with all the dance elements and rhythmic pointing I did not find in the concert elsewhere (let's not forget the pianist has a Hungarian parent). The second was an atmospheric piece, perhaps something from Masques?
Comparison with his compatriot Zimerman is inevitable. Anderszewski sometimes reminds me of the senior pianist for his superb concentration, tendency towards austerity and a fastidious, near-perfect balance of voices. Comparison of the two pianist was quite fascinating and not at all always to the senior pianist's flavor.
Who is Kornel Zempleni?
I have to confess that when he played the first encore, I knew I had heard it before, and not only once, but could not place it. It was when searching some of the other reviews that I found the piece. What a lovely piece that one would never guess it is from Bartok. While researching I came across this mesmerizing youtube:
Kornel Zempleni plays Bartok Three Hungarian Folksongs
I was mesmerized by Zempleni's ethereal reading, which is completely different from Anderszewski's more unexpectedly earthy account. Aside from some youtube fragments, I found little info on that pianist:
I shall be on the lookout for his recordings on Hungaroton. If you have more info on him, let me know.
27 June, 2010
June 26, 2010, CCCH 香港文化中心
Prokofiev - Rimsky-Korsakov
I was unfortunately out-of-town for Wang Yuja's last recital. My friend's words of mouth became my envy. Finally I was able to catch up with this young talent, who had seemingly come out of nowhere to shake the piano world, and she largely did not disappoint.
The Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3 deploys a huge orchestra and is a definite challenge for any soloist. Conductor Tang Muhai made no concession to his soloist with a blazing accompaniment. Rather than fighting against the orchestra, as a lesser soloist is wont to do, Wang Yuja was an equal partner. Her phenomenal storming ability in the percussive passages and unusually strong bass ensured that she could be heard in tutti. Even more satisfying was the sense of partnership; soloist and orchestra showed interplay, as well as integration in the many concertante moments. A mature fluidity belied her age. If there is anything that I had reservation about, it is that in the notes beneath the mezzo level her piano tone was curiously not as strong and full-bodied, even vacuous. This made her indistinctive in the softer passages. Here her sforzando's were also not pointed enough. Indeed, despite her percussive prowess, her Prokofiev was remarkably smooth, perhaps a bit too much so for me. The first encore happened to be one of Stravinsky's Three Movements from Petroushka, her CD of which we had played earlier in the afternoon at a friend's house. Her performance was much like the recording, and I agree with Andrew Clement's review in the Guardian, that it was "...lightweight and never remotely dramatic...". The second encore, Chopin, on the other hand, was quite beautiful, if just a little too manicured and short of haunting.
The conductor deserves great credit for the coherence of the concerto. Tang Muhai had a thorough grasp of the Prokofiev style. His rhythmic exactitude, precise dynamic gradation and fastidious balance of voices similarly brought forth an uncommonly involving Prokofiev Symphony No. 1. The "Haydnesque" elements were very much in evidence. There were slashing accents, a singing line and bouts of high drama, indeed sturm und drang.
The conductor's virtues were also very much in evidence in Rimsky-Korsakov's Scherherazade. He brought out much precision and fine details, and the orchestra played with great virtuosity. Yet I agree with an acquaintance that a little something was lacking. He said the four sections of the score seemed rather unrelated and an overall coherence was lacking. I personally would not dwell on that but did think a little more 陰 to balance out the 陽 would be beneficial. I also think rhythmically the percussive and stormy passages were too four-square, and despite the power too careful by half. I would prefer a little more abandon even at the cost of a little precision. But then this is a rather common failing of the HKPO (and EdW). John Harding was an interesting soloist but his portrait of the protagonist was not necessarily feminine. All in all, a very fine concert.
The HKPO played very well. The horns and brass were splendid. Andrew Simon has been away but for this and the last concert I greatly enjoyed (I always do) the tasteful clarinet playing of John Schertle. This was also one of the very few times that I liked the playing of oboist Michael Wilson (in the Scheherazade).
Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra
26 June, 2010
June 22, 2010, CCCH 香港文化中心
Krystian Zimerman Recital 齊墨曼
I am going to be brief here. Going to a Krystian Zimerman concert is like going to a Pollini concert. You know exactly what you are going to get and you have accepted the terms long before the first note. That said, Zimerman's return visit after 4 years left me a little cold. A feeling of deja-vu led me to dig out my notes on his 2006 concert and not surprisingly I found my feelings duplicated.
The piano sound itself, one of the best reasons to hear this pianist, seemed to me not quite as chiseled as in the 2006 concert. I remember his pristine tone on that occasion quite well. The change may possibly be related to: (1) the pianist; (2) my seat, a little different from last time, but still a good one; (3) the humidity; and (4) Zimerman's positioning of his piano, unusually deep into the stage. The program mentions Zimerman's interest in "...hall acoustics, the latest sound technology and instrument construction..." I am sure he tinkers with the position of his piano on stage.
This being the Chopin year, Zimerman naturally played nothing else. For those who had attended the 2006 concert (my notes below) this unfortunately involved duplication of the Sonata in B minor, the largo of which felt just the same. The same can be said of the funeral march of the Sonata in B flat minor, of grave beauty. As before, I liked his slow playing better. As a whole, for my taste, the most coherent piece was the Scherzo No. 2. The opening Nocturne in F sharp Op 15/2 was rather mild to me. The concluding Barcarolle just a shade detached, despite its myriad beauties and rare evocation of water. I was not bothered by the absence of encores.
Friend and fellow concertgoer cfh mentioned the same program were played on his world tour. Here are some reviews of his London "Birthday Concert" and more:
Daily Telegraph 1
Daily Telegraph 2
Would I go hear Zimerman again? Yes, I would (I have stopped going to Pollini concerts).
Mozart K330; Ravel Valses nobles et sentimentales; Gershwin 3 Preludes; Chopin Mazurkas, Op. 24, Sonata in B Minor
lcsd 2006 press release (I am sure "early July" for the concert is wrong)
"...Vincent Mak gave a review in the SCMP, which I mostly agree with. A few notes:
He is a known entity, a man who had very carefully built up a relatively narrow repertoire, who knows exactly what he wants at every moment. This is a musician who demands we hear him on his terms, a musician not for the literal-minded (none of those generic “the notes speak for themselves” remark). I think I’ve listened to most of his DG recordings and have liked most of them. But they also tell of an almost dangerous fastidiousness. The Chopin concerti were touted for their scholarship, and much was made of his endless study and preparation for them. Yet something was missing in them for me. That, however, did not prepare me for the stunningly affected Brahms with Rattle.
Given his fastidious weighing of notes, many slow and soft, I personally think the location of the seat is very important. I was lucky with my last minute seat, facing him directly on the balcony. The sound of his own piano outstanding though a bit soft and truncated in the bass. Overall I found him more captivating in slow music than fast.
The Mozart was affected. The outer movements did not quite move along and neither did I find his playing as clean as I imagined his should be. I did like the slow movement. I almost always like him in slow movements. He has this neither truly classical, nor romantic, certainly not sentimental quality. Gymnopedie- or Gnossienne-like?
The Ravel was nice but my more critical friend said it was missing some “haze”!
I did not quite take to the Chopin in general, as I did to Pogorelich’s many years ago. But I did find breathtaking the largo of the sonata, played with the qualities noted in the Mozart. To me it was almost like piety and felt like a prayer..."
21 June, 2010
June 18, 201o, CH
Hong Kong Philharmonic - Masaaki Suzuki - Barnabas Kelemen
Masaaki Suzuki is well known for his work in the baroque repertoire, especially for Bach. He is near completion in his recordings of Bach's choral works. It is a surprise to find him here conducting Mendelssohn, but then nearly all conductors of period instrument bands ultimately gravitate to later and romantic repertoire. Norrington even dabbled in Bruckner!
For the entire concert Suzuki employed reduced strings, 11, 10, 8, 6, 4, huddled close together for critical mass. Vibrato was perhaps attenuated but certainly not completely absent, and I'd guess by the bright sonority tuning was as usual.
Haydn Symphony 44 "Trauer" received a stylish treatment. The so-called "mourning" aspect was not emphasized, yet this did not mean the interpretation lacked gravitas. I liked the long lines and sensitive phrasing which subtly illuminated the finer sentiments. This was countered by bouts of fury and drama, completing the picture of Sturm und Drang. Overall, this was dramatic Haydn, well played, but less spontaneous than last year's Haydn under McGegan.
Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3 fared a little less well. Even if the results were uneven I appreciated soloist Barnabas Kelemen's effort at pointing his phrases. Distinctiveness sometimes is just a hair removed from idiosyncrasy. He grimaced very often, as if playing to kids, and no doubt many in the audience found it annoying. The orchestral contribution was average, the whole lacking somewhat in fluency.
Mendelssohn comprised the second half. The rarely heard Fair Musulina fared better, beautifully executed and atmospheric. The Italian Symphony was meticulously worked out, full of details, long on vigor and drama but short of a mellifluous quality, which this symphony, of all pieces, should have in abundance. Here, I'd certainly prefer a larger string body. The reduced strings often imparted a degree of grittiness to the proceedings. Although the winds were thus heard to better advantage, here they failed to capitalize. The clarinets were the best and oboes the weakest. As a whole the interplay of winds and strings so vital in this symphony lacked rhythmic resiliency and felt earthbound.
15 June, 2010
June 12, 2010, 深圳大劇院音樂廳
深圳交響樂團 - 張國勇 - 賈然
六四 HKPO-Lazarev 激昂的音樂會還在腦中回蕩， 沒幾天後卻是深圳交響樂團的蕭氏第十五號。 我本想難免會有點“反高潮“的感覺，但事實證明剛好相反, 我的憂慮是多餘的。
我去聼的原因之一當然是因爲曲目吸引， 但更大的是我想聼 張國勇 的表現。我在 2007 年聼了他伴奏的音樂會後（見下面的附錄），就覺得他是個非凡的指揮 。這天，看了場刊裏 張國勇的資料 後，就有了期待。不單因爲他在俄羅斯受過教育，對蕭氏肯定有深刻的了解， 更因爲他原來是 Rozhdestvensky 的學生！Rozhdestvensky 從蘇俄時代到現在都是俄國音樂圈裏擧足輕重的人物， 對蕭氏的了解更是第一手而非一般的。 老師對學生的評價極高：“...I am awarding Zhang Guoyong the highest mark in the history of the conducting department in the Moscow Conservatory. He can most assuredly take his place in any orchestra throughout the world!...”
第十五號是蕭氏最後一首交響曲，寫的時候蕭氏是知道自己快死了。 曲子的風格奇特，可説是蕭氏在他生命中又一次的“反高潮“。曲子肯定是言之有物，但隱晦中説的到底是什麽就備受爭議。我們先看 國立臺 灣交響樂團 對此曲的描述：
"...《A大調第十五號交響曲，Op.141》寫於1971年蕭斯塔可維奇健康日益惡化之時。第一樂章帶著些許孩童的天真氣息，另外也嘲諷成人在共產體制下被矮 化成傀儡；曲中所引用羅西尼《威廉泰爾序曲》的片段，則暗示著召喚革命的浪漫理想，而玩具化的配器也有意突顯俄羅斯中央監獄的對面竟然是中央玩具店。第2 樂章的長號主題係取自一首囚犯歌曲，整個樂章的基調則為嘲弄與憤怒。第3樂章挖苦與諷刺的調子亦十分明顯。第四樂章引用華格納《指環》裡的命運動機、《齊 格飛》葬禮音樂的反覆節奏和《崔斯坦與伊索德》的開頭音符，以及蕭氏自己《第七號交響曲》裡的進行曲，最後則迂迴到嘎嘎響的死亡骸骨。基本上，此曲可謂蕭 斯塔可維奇向現實、過去的影子和音樂美麗世界的告別之作。指揮大師蕭提1997年3月所錄下的版本，係他跟芝加哥交響樂團的最後錄音，整體演出室內樂般透 明紋理和合奏完成度，節奏活潑，表情洋溢華格納式神祕。結尾打擊樂器的聲音漸去漸遠，大師也彷彿就此消失於人間，很虛無，卻令行家熱烈感動。..."
張國勇向觀衆對此曲做出了幾乎 10 分鐘的講解， 重覆強調：（1）藝術家在暴政下表面的妥協和骨子裏的反抗； （2）快死的蕭氏覺得自己一輩子都在不安和憂傷下過日子，但不能死的時候都是這樣, 故此採取了抽離的風格。張國勇的解説平實自然， 像對話一樣；希望多些指揮可以這樣做。
今年深交的音樂會有異往年的是回歸了大劇院。 大劇院的設計酷似我們的大會堂，音效也是粒粒皆清楚， 唯一的遺憾是小了點，臺上顯得擁擠, 而強聲時不免有點超載的感覺 。
“蕭氏很多作品，包括第十五號， 演繹最難的是對連貫性的要求。各種的微弱聲音滿佈此曲， 平庸點的演繹會令人在刺激過後容易產生乏味的感覺。在這些地方張國勇沒少費周章， 在一個緊接一個隊員或聲部身上張羅到豐富的色彩， 描繪了萬生態的哀樂， 扣人心弦。“
在這曲子的表現上，深交的木管及敲擊樂的出色程度甚至超越了上一場的港樂。各種的敲擊片斷演出了時鐘的踢踏，敲響的警鐘， 心悸後的恐懼， 在不規則裏對平安的緬懷。越聼下去越覺得時光漸在流逝，心頭更浮出不安及唏噓交錯的感覺。那是先前在臺北聼同一曲目 (Michael Sanderling 指揮臺北市立交響樂團) 時沒有感受到的。
在我的心靈上，兩場的蕭氏是分不開的聯體，第十五號明顯地延續了第十一號的意義，共同替我帶來了對蕭氏更深的認知， 也是我聼過最令我感動的蕭氏。心裏面有感恩的感覺：活著的人怎能忘記無辜地死去的人？也覺得安慰：在這浮華的年代，有心人還是有的； 在這廖化當先鋒， 肉麻地叫大師前大師後的年代， 非凡的指揮和音樂家， 也就是默默耕耘的有心人，還是有的。
上半場是 Saint Saens。 Danse Macabre 後演出了第二號鋼琴協奏曲。鋼琴新秀賈然的技術非常扎實，伴奏也到位。整體來説，這法國音樂缺了一點輕鬆的感覺。你也可以在港樂來季聽到賈然。
坐在旁邊的是一位很漂亮大方的女士 。 我問她在替誰錄像， 才知道她是俄羅斯大號首席 Anton 的妻子， 也是一位鋼琴家。 聊天時她也說張國勇是很棒的指揮。在香港張國勇通常會指揮中樂團或替歌唱家伴奏， 希望未來他能有機會指揮點交響曲目。
附錄 1：廣州日报的訪問提及蕭氏及老師 Rozhdestvensky（全文）：
张国勇：我偏爱肖斯塔科维奇，原因是我不仅喜欢他独特的音乐语言以及高超的作曲技巧，更重要的是，我很敬重他的人格，他是一位讲真话的音乐 家。要更真切地感受一个作曲家及其作品，就一定要到他生活的环境、地域里去寻根。我在俄罗斯的学习生活经历对我指挥俄罗斯作曲家的作品帮助很大，而且我与 一般较年轻的留学生不同的是，我在俄罗斯学习时年龄相对稍长，有一定的工作和实践经验，也有一定的文化经历。我就不只是纯粹地学习技术，而是在感悟文化， 感悟人生，感悟历史。这可能也是我的演绎带给听众的比较特别的一点吧。
"...The hall was packed with an enthusiastic audience (frequently the case with mainland artists). I was really surprised when the orchestra came out, so young!...The real surprise is the orchestra。 They played with concentration and verve under Zhang Guoyong, who conducted with concision and incisiveness. The opening Rossini Barber overture was dramatic. The strings were excellent and had big, dramatic, penetrating power. Most surprising was the lack of “Chinese sound” and the orchestra’s grasp of all the musical styles. Even the Mozart pieces were delivered with élan (that cannot even be said of the HKPO); the beautiful clarinet playing of ?Li Cong almost took my concentration completely away from Yang Guang. The winds were in general very good, except for the sound of the oboe (instrument?). The brass was surprisingly secure and warm. I think this is already a better orchestra than the Sinfonietta and the
13 June, 2010
June 4, 2010, CCCH
"...標題《1905年》的《G小調第十一號交響曲，Op.103》首演於1957年，內容描寫一樁重大歷史事件：1905年俄羅斯東正教教士加朋錯估沙皇尼古 拉二世的仁慈，率眾赴皇宮請願，沒想到沙皇全家避居冬宮別墅，警察及哥薩克騎兵向群眾開火，廣場血流成河，埋下俄國大革命的火種。全曲四個樂章均附標題： （一）宮殿廣場（二）元月9日（三）永恆追憶（四）警報，有學者認為其精神內涵似乎隱喻譴責蘇聯當時入侵匈牙利的不當。無論如何，此曲動態巨大，配器多彩多姿，是一首備受音響發燒友喜愛的里程碑格局曲目。..."
蕭氏從來都是港樂的強項。在這之前， 港樂有三次超凡的蕭氏演繹：幾年前 Jaap Van Zweden 指揮的第八號 那霹靂感至今仍然在耳（可惜那時未建 Blog, 也沒留檔案； 如你有資料，敬請告知）；還有 2008 年 Mark Elder 極具深度的第六號 及 2009 年 Rozhdestventsky 的第十號。可是這一次更不一般。
在 Alexander Lazarev 的指揮下，HKPO 蕭氏第十一號的演繹，絕對稱得上“ 鬼哭神嚎“。 描述屠殺的時候，我及朋友們的眼淚滾滾而下。 從來沒聼過港樂能夠那麽從容地放送源源不絕的力量。就算在音樂最歇斯底里的時候，每聲部仍然清晰； 就這一環，水準已經超越了以前任何蕭氏和馬勒的演出。更可貴的是，在大嚎中也能聽到細細的哭泣。這不只是樂隊在音樂澎湃時的出色表現，也是指揮 Lazarev 對樂曲整體的理解和描述。 聼這場音樂會赫然就是一個祭拜的經歷。
蕭氏很多作品，包括第十一號， 演繹最難的是對連貫性的要求。各種的微弱聲音滿佈此曲， 平庸點的演繹會令人在刺激過後容易產生乏味的感覺。在這些地方 Lazarev 沒少費周章， 在一個緊接一個隊員或聲部身上張羅到豐富的色彩， 描繪了萬生態的哀樂， 扣人心弦。
令人遺憾的是，可能日子特別之故，當日上座率我想四成不到。更糟糕的是，最後一個音符還沒完全過去就有一位先生大叫 Bravo, 破壞了一個完美的音樂會。 幸好之後 Bravo 之聲仍然不絕。
差點忘記了，上半場是 Mozart Clarinet Concerto。 Andrew Simon 的表演 (Basset horn) 缺點味道，樂隊雖不錯， 整體沒有以前 McGegan 指揮那次的水準。
久違了的 Lazarev 是一個非凡的指揮。自我聼了他在 2005 年指揮港樂後，就非常仰慕他。那次全俄國作品， 其實比這次難度更高。上半場 Rimsky-Korsakov 的 Russian Easter Overture 及Prokofiev 的 Violin Concerto 2 (Takezawa 拉) 對大家來説比較耳熟能詳；真正令人驚嘆的是下半場兩個冷門曲目。 Liadov 的 Nenie 色彩豐富多變；Borodin 的 Symphony No. 2 氣勢如虹。
友人聼了 RTHK 的訪問，說 Lazarev 很謙卑，強調“指揮”最重要的是跟樂隊的溝通。其謙卑從謝幕也可看到；他不停地用手勢把掌聲推向樂隊。
Universal HK is having a "Masters of the Strings" promotion right now. Full-priced String albums are offered at mid-price.
Daniel Hope is a young violinist that I like very much, but he's obviously not a box-office draw. His new CD, Air - A Baroque Journey, is available at promotion price! Much of the music is unfamiliar, but it's worth your time to explore. Make sure you sample the tracks at the website link above.
I'm not a fan of Mullova, but I'm certainly one of Carmignola (previously on Sony) in the baroque repertoire. Their Vivaldi Double Violin Concerto CD is refreshing, one of the best Vivaldi CDs recently (aside from Carmignola's own solo CDs, also available in this promotion).
The Grimiaux-Haskil Mozart CD is a classic, but has been difficult to get, perhaps even out of print. It's now available again as part of the promotion. Of course, the cover is a little different. It says DECCA rather than Philips on the cover! Grab it while you can.
The promotion has all the familiar faces, but I'd urge you to explore new talents, like Nicola Benedetti, who not only has a beautiful face.
01 June, 2010
This is an issue that has fascinated collectors forever. Long time LP collectors often come across obscure labels that were once sold by alternative methods, such as in department stores, supermarkets, or through subscription etc. For contractural and other reasons, the real name of the orchestras and conductors were often changed to almost funny names, caricatures with intent. Even larger "second-labels" such as Everest did this kind of thing.
These LPs were also notable for their covert "art". Many are so campy that they are great! I like the one pictured.
The ReDiscovery Label
While researching the violinist Janine Andrade I came across this small "label" that sells CD-R's at reasonable price (one man's work of love). It has put out a huge series of worthwhile perfromances (some of which I have) and identified the real musicians. That's a real service to collectors!
Here is the Discovery Catalogue (Musical Mysteries series). Please note the "thumbs up, thumbs down" icons contain reviews that offer much more information. Here's a review of the pictured Can Can in Stereo album. The orchestra were certainly not "The French Orchestra" and the conductor not "Suzanne Auber". The real performers were the Hamburg Radio Orchestra directed by Hans-Jurgen Walther.
Make sure you play the ReDiscovery Gallery (wonderful LP covers).