28 May, 2016

Concert Review: HKPO - Atherton - Koranyi

Concert Review: HKPO - Atherton - Koranyi

May 28, 2016, CCCH
HKPO -Atherton - Jakob Koranyi
All Russian program

The HKPO was in fine form. David Atherton conducted in his familiar style: literal, driven and not much subtlety, but the familiar music carried the day. Borodin's Polovtsian Dances was a tidy opener.

Swedish cellist Jakob Koranyi substituted for Jing Zhao at short notice. He had a good tone but the sound was just too small for Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1, getting covered by the orchestra. One has to fill in the blanks. Principal horn Lin Jiang was flawless.

The orchestra clearly loved Rimsky Korsakov's Sheherazade and the many soloists gave their best. Concertmaster Wang Jing as usual played with commitment, although the portrait was definitely on the yang side. One wished for a little more tenderness in many episodes (only in the andantino did Atherton cared to show a little) and a little more characterization in transitions would not be remiss (though one would not expect this of this conductor).

Overall, a satisfying concert.

25 May, 2016

Patti Smith M Train

pic from NYT.

Talk Book: Patti Smith M Train

"...without a doubt we sometimes eclipse our own dreams with reality..."

After reading Just Kids, I lost no time in reserving Patti Smith's newest book, M Train, from the HK Public Library. A month and a half later I got it, and since I I knew I cannot renew (others are in the line) I devoured it in just a few days, perhaps not the best way to read this mysterious beast of a creation, but likely just as well as I'd never fully comprehend her dreamscapes and lofty travails anyway.

For her journeys to obscure places, often to honor heroes of the past (concisely summarized by the NY Times review) are awesome; we mere mortals would never entertain such ideas. However, comprehension or not, one has to admire her determined nature.

As words and scenes leap out from every sentence, her colossal spiritual dimension is revealed. In an age when most people spend more time on researching what to do, wear or eat than actually doing things, I can only applaud someone who wouldn't care about fashion, fine dining and most luxuries (surely Patti Smith couldn't care less about hifi, even if she's a musician). In an age when people spend more time rating things, choosing emoticons and giving thumb-ups, in general living the life of others rather than discovering themselves, Patti Smith examines every recess of her psyche, excavates every buried emotion, and crafts a lifetime of words to describe her dreams, premonitions, pain. Indeed pain and loss, her own as well as reflections through others, permeate the book.

Patti Smith knows herself as well as any writer I have read, and the above quote perfectly describes this book.

17 May, 2016

Concert Review: Sinfonietta-Frang-Halls

Concert Review: Sinfonietta-Frang-Halls

May 14, CH
HK Sinfonietta - Vilde Frang - Matthew Halls
Haydn and Britten

Each half opened with Haydn and ended with Britten. Matthew Halls is an early music specialist but it was Britten who fared the better.

Haydn's Overture L'Isola Disabitata was tidy. But the Symphony No. 96, "Miracle", was too cautious. Perhaps the Sinfonietta was not quite attuned to quasi-period style playing. In any case, the inner movements (the wind playing was good) fared better than the outer ones, which came across as a little square. I also think the Sinfonietta is in my experience (more often than not) not so effective in reduced configuration.

Britten's Violin Concerto received a faultless rendition by Vilde Frang. She has a natural, breathing style and sweet tone across the spectrum. A minor quibble is that her sound is slightly on the small side, given that I was seated only in the middle of the hall (I also heard her in Carnegie Hall, which was too big for her I thought). The orchestral part was tidy and well controlled though the ultimate chemistry between soloist and orchestra was missing. Most unexpected was an absolutely superbly characterized Four Sea Interludes - each tableau was wonderfully detailed and harmonically full, the entire effect thrilling. Even played by famous orchestras, this piece can often be a bore in concert, but this account is a happy exception.