26 January, 2015

Concert Review: HKPO - Das Rheingold

Best surprise of the show was the wonderful singing of Korean bass Kwangchul Youn.

Concert Review: HKPO - Das Rheingold

January 22, 2015, CCCH
HKPO-Jaap and soloists
Wagner Das Rheingold

WAGNER, R.: Rheingold (Das) [Opera] (Goerne, DeYoung, Begley, Sidhom, Cangelosi, Hong Kong Philharmonic, van Zweden)Note (24/01/16) Naxos has issued a recording of the concerts, to generally favorable reviews. Personally, I am surprised that Goerne's Wotan received much praise. I think multi-miking helped him seem bigger and more authoritative. In concert he was not. More on this in my review of 2016's Die Walkure.

First thing first, the biggest name disappoints. The Wotan of Matthias Goerne was an outright failure. He had never sung Wotan before, and obviously he was feeling out the role far away from Europe. The singing was generic, inadequately shaded, and simply did not have the depth and breath the role required. Even his physical presence seemed rather uncomfortable.

The biggest surprise came from the Giants. While Stephen Milling (Fafner) was indeed imposing in stature, in tandem Korean Kwanchul Youn (Fasolt) was almost comically dwarfed (this would never work on the opera stage). The former sang in a well-characterized manner, but it was the singing of the latter that was the biggest surprise - big, full-throated and resonant. Simply fantastic.

The central characters of Alberich (Peter Sidhom) and Loge (Kim Begley) were well sung and portrayed, the former especially so for good acting (whatever could be done on stage). Among the rest, David Cagelosi portrayed a suitably pathetic Mime. Oleksandr Pushniak (Donner) and Charles Reid (Froh) were competent.

Among the ladies, Michelle DeYoung (Fricka) and Deborah Humble (Erda) were very good. The Freia of Anna Samuil was a shrieking hysteric. Japanese Eri Nakamura was competent as Woglinde, but Aurhelia Varak (Wellgunde) and Hermine Haslebock (Flosshilde) were much less satisfactory.

Jaap van Zweden conducted in his customary, rather brute, style, so textures were generally clean, but atmosphere was lacking. As usual, the HKPO strings were tidy and dry, failing to portray anything like the Rhein. Woodwinds also paled next to the generally very good playing of the huge, much augmented brass section.

12 January, 2015

Concert Review: HKPO - Bezhod Abduraimov - Thomas Dausgaard

Concert Review: HKPO - Bezhod Abduraimov - Thomas Dausgaard

Jan 9, 2015, CCCH
HKPO - Bezhod Abduraimov - Thomas Dausgaard
Mendelssohn - Rachmaninov - Elgar

I came to know this latest wunderkind through the public library, which has his excellent first Decca CD release.

For an opener, lanky Dane conductor Thomas Dausgaard delivered a lean and mean Hebrides overture.

The Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 3 was almost anti-romantic, but the tight partnership was enticing. Bezhod Abduraimov produced the most beautiful tone and did not just hammer it out, instead filling many passages with refreshing poetry. One of my friends who went the following night said he played just too beautifully, but I desist. The encore made me want to hear his recital. Come back soon!

Elgar's Enigma Variations has never been a personal favorite. On this occasion, it was played well. Nimrod lacked a little atmosphere. But Dausgaard played a trick by playing the original ending first (no wonder it sounded odd), and then he spoke to the audience and played the revised ending  (upon urging by the publisher). Well, the publisher was right! :-)