17 August, 2012

Concert Review: HK Sinfonietta - Yang Tianwa

Galerie Tianwa YangConcert Review: HK Sinfonietta - Yang Tianwa

August 11, 2012
Hong Kong Sinfonietta - Yip Wing-sie - Yang Tianwa
All Mendelssohn

Yang Tianwa is a miraculous violinist that many of us avidly follow. My violin-playing friend BenYC even thinks she is the best living violinist before the public! I tend to agree!

In the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, Yang was ardent, yet supremely assured in her playing. There was not a trace of struggle. Phrasing and dynamics all seemed perfectly natural, and her supple tone easily filled the hall. No wonder the concert was sold out! Two virtuosic encores were immaculately rendered.

The Sinfonietta seems to be on a good stretch. The woodwind playing was supple and cohesive. The new lady horn player was assured. Despite the small size (only 8 first violins), the Italian symphony received a tight and satisfying reading that illuminated much inner details. Just a little abandon would have been welcome! They also played the two fillers very well; the Overture and Nocturne from A Midsummer Night's Dream were atmospheric and refined.

Yang is apparently going on tour with the Sinfonietta, playing the Prokofiev!! Now, I'd must hear that in the near future!

14 August, 2012

Concert Review: Asian Youth Orchestra 2012

James JuddConcert Review: Asian Youth Orchestra 2012

August 10, 2012, CCCH
Asian Youth Orchestra - James Judd
Mahler 9th Symphony

Every year the AYO concerts comprise one of the highlights of the year. I have attended every year but last, and that was because they could not book CCCH and tickets sold out quickly.

I have greatly admired James Judd, and his work with the AYO have been marvelous. Two works stood out in particular, an excellent Mahler 5th in 2010 and a valedictory Shostakovich 5th in 2008. Prior to Judd, the AYO had also played a wonderful Mahler 4th in 2006 under the baton of the great Okko Kamu. With all that in mind, I went to the concert with great expectations for the Mahler 9th. Alas, they were not all fulfilled.

As there was no intermission the concert was delayed for too long (a full ten minutes) to accommodate the many latecomers. The first movement started quite promisingly but soon showed cracks at the seams. From mezzi to fortissimi the orchestra played with fervor, but quieter passages grew rather stale and static. In general, the winds and low brass played with character, but the horns were woefully inadequate, and often distracting. I don't know what happened; in past years the horns had been quite good. After what seemingly was an interminable struggle, Judd regained control in the closing pages.

The middle movements fared much better, though just a bit too cautious. Best was the last movement, where Judd worked miracles with the strings. One sensed farewell, and the woodwinds also had their poignant moments. A marvelous achievement.

Judd was rather irritated during the breaks between the movements, when latecomers were allowed in. Of course, applause broke out immediately at the end, despite Judd keeping his baton raised. There was no encore.