Homepage List A Night of Classical Music

1. A Night of Classical Music

On April 19, 2008 I attended a concert of classical music at the auditorium of Tuen Mun Town Hall. It was a night of performance of the Hong Kong Children's Symphony Orchestra, with Wu Songao as the violin soloist in Bruch's Violin Concerto No.1 in G Minor, Op.26, and Wong Wai-yin as the piano soloist in Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No.2 in C Minor, Op.18. In addition to the two concertos, the programme included Tchaikovsky's Symphony No.5 in E Minor, Op.64.

The Hong Kong Children's Symphony Orchestra was established in 1996 by Dr. Yip Wai-hong, with himself as the music director and conductor, and Grace Yu as the associate conductor. There are almost eighty teenage members aged from seven to sixteen in the orchestra.

The concert started with Yip Wai-hong's conducting of Tchaikovsky's fifth symphony. Tchaikovsky had composed six symphonies in his life but only the last three were more frequently performed. The fifth symphony, consisting of four movements, though has no declared programme by the composer, is considered a description of the "fate" of humanity. This is quite a long symphony lasting almost fifty minutes and is really a great challenge to those teenage members of the orchestra. Nevertheless, they certainly gave the audience a great surprise for their generally fluent and skilful performance. The strings and the wood winds of the orchestra played superbly, but the brass winds played not so well as faults of sound were occasionally heard.

The concert then continued with Bruch's Violin Concerto No.1 in G Minor, Op.26, with Grace Yu as the conductor and Wu Songao as the soloist. The 10-year-old boy, being a primary five student from mainland China, showed his very confident playing and manipulation of the violin, and the sheer lyric and haunting melody seemed lingering over the audience. This concerto of Bruch is one of the four most popular German violin concertos, the other three being those of Beethoven, Brahms and Mendelssohn. As mentioned in the programme notes of the concert, Bruch's Violin Concerto No.1 has remained a favourite debut vehicle for young virtuosi, both in concert and on recordings. The orchestra played as competently as the soloist and, when the music finished, the audience could hardly refrain from offering them a big long applause.

The concluding programme of the night was Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No.2 in C Minor, Op.18, conducted by Yip Wai-hong and the 14-year-old girl Wong Wai-yin as the soloist. This is perhaps the most popularly performed piece of all Rachmaninov's music and its melodies can possibly be heard frequently as background music of many dramas or films. One of the comments has described this concerto, especially the second slow movement, as too sweet to the listeners as a candy. Wong Wai-yin was so lively in the playing that she sometimes raised her body in pressing the piano strongly. Her performance as a whole was remarkable, but it was a bit of pity that in one or two passages the music from the piano was too soft to be heard, being almost completely covered by that from the orchestra. The concerto ended brilliantly and triumphantly in full integration of the piano and the orchestra, and the audience applauded passionately, earnestly appealing to an encore. Finally, Wong Wai-yin agreeably returned to the piano and played in a very delightful spirit a tiny piece of piano music, giving the concert to the ultimate end.

(Written on September 29, 2008)