12 June, 2011

Concert Review: HKPO-Carolyn Kuan-Zhang Haochen

Concert Review: HKPO-Carolyn Kuan-Zhang Haochen

June 11, CCCH
HKPO-Carolyn Kuan-Zhang Haochen

After hearing Zhang's recital in SZ some months ago, I was eagerly waiting for this concert. The young female conductor (maestra) Carolyn Kuan, was unfamiliar to me, and she proved a sensation. Kuan, a native of Taiwan, went to the US when she was 14, studied and excelled at various things before becoming a conductor, after being a protege of Marin Alsop. Make sure you read the links I provide below; what an interesting character!

The hushed atmosphere of the opening of Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet immediately grabbed my attention. Kuan conducted from memory; her simple gestures were matter-of-fact, but precise and effective. Despite occasional moments of orchestral unsteadiness, the piece unfolded naturally and revealed all its glory all the way to the very end. Perhaps the violent aspect of the score impressed more than the love music, which was not at all milked. As it is harder to make a meal of a concert overture than to impress with a full symphony, Kuan's performance was remarkable in its complete grasp of the architecture and proper release of sentiment while avoiding excess. Yet she imparted atmosphere to this piece, which has eluded many a conductor in concert or on records, no mean feat. I'd love to hear her in the even more enigmatic Francesca da Rimimi.

Kuan also conducted Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition from memory, and it was a fine performance. The orchestra sounded relaxed and having fun. Not all of the many solo's were quite memorable, but the whole was organic and satisfying. I enjoyed the many details Kuan revealed along the way but a little more mystery when appropriate and grandeur at the end would not have been wanting. The audience apparently loved her and gave her and the orchestra extended applause. Yes, I yelled my "Bravo!"

In between came what most of the audience came for (indeed many left after the first half), Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2 with Zhang Haochen. I had admired Zhang since I last heard him in a Shenzhen recital (my report here), and on this night he did not disappoint. His steadfast playing was well controlled, his tone smooth and clear, and he rose to the big moments. Personally, I'd have welcomed a little more rhythmic inflection and percussive quality when called for in this masterpiece. For me, Zhang's smooth playing let Carolyn Kuan stole the show with her fastidious and rhythmically alert accompaniment. Zhang's encores were a little too smooth for my tastes.

What an exciting and accomplished conductor! I'd think someone like her would be ideal for a HKPO directorship. I hope she comes back soon.

The June 10th concert was broadcast live on RTHK. It shall be repeated on Wednesday, June 15th, at 2 pm.

Appendix: More on Carolyn Kuan:
Hartford Symphony official website introduction, with interview , Concert Review
Seattle Times Portrait
Northwest Asian weekly Interview


上次在深圳聼了張昊辰很棒的肖邦獨奏 (按 這裡) 後,就開始留意他。這次他彈 Prokofiev 第二鋼琴協奏曲,當然報到。張昊辰沒有辜負了我對他的期望,琴音自然透澈,作風平穩。要嫌的話,就是這曲子的鋼琴部,尤其快板,可以奔放許多,多點敲擊的元素,少點修飾 (兩個 encore 也是太内斂了點)。故此,對我來說,指揮關琦安完美的伴奏徹底掩蓋了張昊辰的光芒。Prokofiev 的節奏不規則更變化多,然而對小妮子來講卻是駕輕就熟,由頭到尾保持了樂隊的鮮明,刹而輕快向前,刹而大吼盡興,沒有半點拖泥帶水。這是難度極高的,許多所謂的大師 (尤其香港人愛捧的那些) 都沒法辦到, 她卻輕鬆地完成了,令人激賞。

女指揮的實力一開場就能瞻到。TchaikovskyRomeo and Juliet 序曲是不容易保持完整的,然而一開始關琦安就能營造出說故事的氣氛,跟著下來表演一氣呵成,最難得的是連趨於安詳的尾聲都保持著張力而沒淪爲反高潮。音樂激昂的時候火花四濺,唯一能嫌的就是愛情的描述平淡了點。下半場 MussorgskyPictures at an Exhibition 生動有餘,卻有些地方欠缺了一點詭秘的氣氛,結尾的氣勢也稍欠,然而還是一個完整的演出。



附錄: 關琦安:
亞洲週刊 Oliver Chou's review in Asian Weekly
臺灣 Muzik


  1. 關是台灣人! 注意她很久了, 只是她不太被台灣關注. 唉......

  2. DJ,

    Read Oliver Chou's review here:



  3. 香港管弦樂團需要世界一流的音樂總監,不拘國藉!不要過分民緒主義!

  4. 這個有保留。

    世界一流是主觀的,主流追捧通常是二流的。我認爲 EdW 離一流還有段大距離,也覺得 HKPO 在他的指揮棒下奏出來的音樂, 就算整齊,還是二流的。

    反之,我看好 Jaap Van Zweden, 他名氣沒那麽大,但有 EdW 完全欠缺的激情。賈以時日,我覺得他會是一流的。