14 December, 2014

Concert Review: HKPO - Zimmerman - van Zweden

Dec 12, 2014, CCCH
HKPO - Zimmerman - van Zweden
Sibelius - Prokofiev

After his wonderful 2012 HKPO performance of Beethoven, Zimmerman returned for the Sibelius Violin Concerto (interview with Zimmerman on this piece). He played with his usual fastidiousness and "considered spontaneity", and the tone he obtained on his ex-Kreisler Strad was fabulous. Jaap's accompaniment was tidy. But the whole was dispiriting. Where were the passion and grand sweep of Sibelius? A friend who went the next day was even more dismissive, saying "it sounded like a rehearsal". The Bach encore, however, was immaculate!

Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony is one of my favorites, and I had high hopes for Jaap, whose showmanship should suit this sort of stuff. Again, the orchestra played accurately, but the result was bland. Tidiness of the violins robbed the stratospheric passages of dissonance and atmosphere. The finale, while cacophonous, lacked rhythmic swagger, and the coiled tension that should have been there was nowhere in evidence. Ah, I miss Celibidache, whose performance of this piece in HK was so incredibly lively!

Jaap has been disappointing. Aside from his stunning HK debut with the Shostakovich 8th, his Mahler 1st, 4th and now Prokofiev have all been sharply played but musically non-satisfying.

09 December, 2014

Concert Review: Ivo Pogorelich Recital

Image result for pogorelichConcert Review: Ivo Pogorelich Recital

Dec 9, 2014, CCCH
Liszt, Schumann, Stravinsky, Brahms

In a way, it is not possible to review a Pogorelich concert. The pianist has his own rules and one is best to discard convention in listening.

The first half had a Fantasia theme, which was exploited in full by the pianist. Tempi were slow; gears changed abruptly; rhythms were idiosyncratic, and pauses could last an eternity. This can be said to suit the lurid world of the Liszt Dante Sonata. Pogorelich certainly made a meal of the bass ripples, while the treble was always beautiful in tone. But the same approach made the Schumann Fantasy in C thoroughly idiosyncratic, not so much Florestan and Eusebius as all-Pogorelich.

The more structural pieces of the second-half were (just) a little more  straightforward. Stravinsky's 3 Movements from Petrouchka was brilliant but the rhythms did not feel Russian. The Brahms Paganini Variations is not one of my favorite pieces; I have always felt it rather straight-laced. The free rein Pogorelich gave it actually made more involving listening, for me at least. No encore was offered, as is appropriate after such a heavy program.

One thing I thought: for all the tonal beauty and pianistic display, there was not much rhythmic subtlety, nor humor.

Here is a UK comment on his 2014 London concert of the same program.