Homepage List A Night of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms

2. A Night of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms

On September 6, 2008 I and my friend attended a concert of Pan Asia Symphony Orchestra at the auditorium of Yuen Long Theatre. The programme included Johann Sebastian Bach's Double Violin Concerto in D Minor, BWV 1043, Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 in F, Op.68 "Pastoral", and Johannes Brahms's Violin Concerto in D, Op.77. Jimmy Chiang was the conductor, while David Hyung Ki Park and Henry Choi were the soloists in Bach's Double Violin Concerto, and David Hyung Ki Park the soloist in Brahms's Violin Concerto.

Bach (1685-1750) had written three violin concertos, BWV 1041-1043, the first two each for a single violin soloist and the third for two violin soloists, the latter being the one performed in this concert. A short piece of work of about fifteen minutes in duration and requiring only a small group of the string orchestra, the Double Violin Concerto is rich in tuneful melodies and structurally and harmoniously balanced in sounds of different instruments. The two soloists charmingly played the violins and the music was ended in the enthusiastic applause of the audience.

The concert was immediately followed by the performance of the sixth symphony of Beethoven (1770-1827). Among his nine symphonies only the third (Eroica) and the sixth (Pastoral) each were given a name by Beethoven himself. In addition to a name given to the symphony, Beethoven even described each movement of the Pastoral Symphony shortly in words. The descriptions are:

First movement: Awakening of cheerful feelings upon arrival in the country.
Second movement: Scene by the brook.
Third movement: Merry gathering of country folk.
Fourth movement: Thunder, storm.
Fifth movement: Shepherd's song: Happy and thankful feelings after the storm.

These descriptions make the Pastoral Symphony very unique because no other piece of music of Beethoven has such a description. The "Pastoral" substantially differs from the other symphonies of Beethoven in that the peaceful atmosphere and thankful feelings are prevailing through the whole symphony. However, the performance of Pan Asia Symphony Orchestra in the concert was far from satisfactory. One of the French horns was especially poorly played. He, in some moments, played out of pace of the orchestra and the sound produced was not smooth enough as should be professionally played. The whole orchestra only did a mediocre work. It seemed that the members of the orchestra only carried out their duties in a routine way, and so the charm of Beethoven's music could barely be demonstrated. It was a disappointing performance indeed!

After the intermission came the Violin Concerto in D, Op.77 of Brahms (1833-1897). This is the only violin concerto Brahms had written. It was finished after the works of his first two symphonies. Brahms, always very serious in his composition, had already been a highly acclaimed composer in that time. He need only to work leisurely in a not so vigorous way to accomplish the concerto, which he dedicated to his friend Joseph Joachim who was the first soloist in the premiere of this concerto. Brahms's Violin Concerto is lyrical and very charming. The Korean soloist in this concert, David Hyung Ki Park, competent as a player, energetically waved the bow over the strings of his violin. The orchestra, not as competent as the soloist, nevertheless, just played the music in a routine way, with no charm and flair at all. Once again, the same one of the French horns played poorly, even producing queer and unpleasant notes.

To me this was a rather unsatisfactory concert. As a professional orchestra, the standard of performance of Pan Asia Symphony Orchestra in this night of concert was disappointingly low, even lower than that of Hong Kong Children's Orchestra playing in my previous concert at the Tuen Mun Town Hall.

(Written on September 29, 2008)