Homepage List A Brilliant Night of Outstanding Performance

5. A Brilliant Night of Outstanding Performance

This Friday, November 28, 2008, I went to the concert of "Peak Performance", a collaboration of Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and The Academy Symphony Orchestra of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts at the Concert Hall of Hong Kong Cultural Centre, and enjoyed a brilliant night of outstanding performance. The programme of the concert included Richard Strauss's "Capriccio: Sextet, Op 85" and "An Alpine Symphony, Op 64" and Camille Saint-Saens's "Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor, Op 22", with Colleen Lee as the soloist. The conductor of this night's concert was Edo de Waart, the Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

The concert began with the "Capriccio: Sextet, Op 85" written by the German composer Richard Strauss (1864-1949). This short piece of chamber music for two violins, two violas and two cellos was played by six members of Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. The music was relaxing and calm in nature and the players did a good job in their interpretation.

The concert was immediately followed by the "Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor, Op 22", the most popular one of the five piano concertos written by the French composer Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921). The soloist Colleen Lee started the unusual opening cadenza of the first movement, Andante sostenuto, beautifully before the integration with the orchestra, but in most of the time the soloist gave her powerful playing, with the orchestra only occasionally adding short interludes and subdued accompaniments. The sounds of the piano and the orchestra intertwined together smoothly and harmoniously. The music was then followed by the second movement, Allegro scherzando, and the third movement, Presto, and intimate collaboration between the soloist and the orchestra was sustained throughout the whole concerto. Colleen Lee was surely a very competent and skilful piano player and the orchestra members were also exceptionally professional. The audience applauded enthusiastically as the concerto ended.

After the intermission, the orchestra played Richard Strauss's "An Alpine Symphony" as the final programme of the concert. Richard Strauss, very famous for his symphonic poems, completed his last symphonic poem, "An Alpine Symphony", in February 1915 and conducted its premiere in Berlin on 28th October 1915, and the music has been described as "the first and the only great towering musical monument from the great era in which we live". Strauss had had a climbing expedition in the Alps when he was a teenager and afterwards depicted his excursion on the piano. As he got old and moved to his villa in the Alps overlooking the very mountain which he had attempted to climb as a teenager, he determined to turn the piano music into a vast orchestral symphonic poem which was named "An Alpine Symphony". In addition to the music, the composer gave verbal descriptions to the 22 sections of the "symphony" which depicts 24 hours in the Alps and the music runs without a break. The key words of these descriptions are

Night/Sunrise/The Ascent/Entry into the Wood/Wandering by the Brook/Waterfall/An Apparition/Flowering Meadows/Alpine Pasture/Lost in Thicket and Undergrowth/On the Glacier/Dangerous Moments/The Summit/A Vision/Mists Rise/The Sun Darkens/Elegy/The Calm Before the Storm/The Storm/Sunset/End/Night

This "symphony" is scored for a huge orchestra of almost 150 players including an organ, a Heckelphone (a lower-pitched oboe first made in 1904) and machines producing thunder and wind effects. The performance of the orchestra was fantastically outstanding and the audience all seemed invited to join the composer in the expedition, experiencing the outrageous thunderstorm and the pleasure of viewing the spectacular scenery of the mountains in the Alps. The music seemed dancing in the atmosphere of the acoustically superb concert hall.

To me, this night's concert was really an excellent enjoyment and I was still being haunted by the music on my way home.

(Written on December 1, 2008)