20 February, 2014

Brief Concert Reviews: HKPO - 2 Concerts - Jaap and Wildner

A belated report on 2 concerts I attended.

December 19, 2013
Jaap-Jussen Brothers-Chen Reiss

I attended the second night. The first night of the 2 concerts was cancelled at the last minute; supposedly, the sudden death of an administrator the same afternoon caused the musicians much distress. The decision was regrettable - it is a show biz rule that the show must go on. In any case, on the second night, the HKPO played very well but the concert proved to be most uninspiring.

Mozart's K365 two-piano concerto is a rarity in concert, but the rendition was disappointing. I did not find the playing of the Jussen Brothers particularly inspiring. The accompaniment was dutiful but the whole was only competent.

Although Mahler's 4th Symphony had its moments and was well executed, Jaap's manipulations resulted in an episodic performance that never gelled. Chen Reiss sang well, but was unable to raise the emotional temperature by then. The performance did not even come close to the last year's sublime Shenzhen Symphony effort under Ehwald.

So far, Jaap still has to prove he is a great Mahlerian.

January 24, 2014
Johannes Wildner - Zhang Haochen
All Schumann

This turned out to be one of the best concerts I have attended.

I was eager for Wildner's return; his previous concert with the HKPO (with Ohlsson in Brahms) was impressive. If anything, he is even better this time.

Seldom have I heard Schumann symphonies played so idiomatically. The great Rhenish was by turn impetuous, mysterious and luminous. No period practice, no lumpy textures, just great music in a fluid performance of elegance and transparency. The lesser Symphony No. 4 also received an equally beguiling performance.

In comparison, Zhang Haochen did not fulfill my high expectations. The Piano Concerto was solidly played but, despite the excellent orchestral contribution, somehow did not quite take flight. Zhang's playing was a little four-square and did not show much of the tonal splendor he is certainly capable of.