12 April, 2018

Tongyeong Festival Orchestra

Concert Review:Tonyeong Festival Orchestra

April 10, CCCH
Tongyeong Festival Orchestra - Eschenbach - Midori
Yun - Bernstein - Dvorak

The Tongyeong Festival Orchestra is sort of a Korean take on the likes of Japan's Saito Kinen Orchestra and perhaps Mito Chamber Orchestra, with recruitment of foreign nationals, in this case mostly from Japan and HK (members of the HK Sinfonietta) but also some from the UK, Europe and Australia.

A crystalline performance of Isang Yun's Bara (an early work) opened the concert. The medium sized orchestra played with verve and a very transparent texture. Bernstein's Serenade was similarly well played but too safe by half. Midori, not one of my favorites, is as usual small toned in the big moments and more affective than effective. In particular, the concluding movement sorely needed more jazz inflection, and the overly careful orchestral playing was possibly tailored not to overwhelm the soloist. Midori's Bach encore, however, was quite wonderful and fluid.

Dvorak's New World, which Eschenbach conducted from memory, received a marvelously architectural reading. The strings played with precision, power and refinement, much more penetrating and satisfying than the larger HKPO strings. Despite an occasional moment of insecurity from the horns, the brass was burnished and powerful, thanks to a full bodied and steady trombone section. The winds were considerably less satisfying, particularly in the solo's (the cor anglais was downright pedestrian) though as a whole they sounded of one piece (HKPO is the other way around). Most importantly, Eschenbach had the full measure of the piece. Overall, this was a satisfying performance, though certainly not on the level of the Budapest Festival Orchestra I heard in NYC in 2014 (here).