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11. Beethoven's Ninth Marvellously Played

The performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony by Northern Sinfonia and Chorus in the concert on February 12, 2009 at the Concert Hall of Hong Kong Cultural Centre as one of the programmes of the 37th Hong Kong Arts Festival was truely outstanding and marvellous. Though an orchestra of only a medium size, Northern Sinfonia, conducted by Thomas Zehetmair, the music director of the orchestra, still produced a breathtaking effect and accomplished a very convincing interpretation by playing the "Choral Symphony" marvellously.

An orchestra composed of a total of only 47 players comprising 8 first violins, 6 second violins, 4 violas, 4 cellos, 2 double basses, 3 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, a contrabassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, as well as a timpanist and 3 percussionists, Northern Sinfonia played Beethoven's Ninth in some way a bit faster than usual, only in a span of about one hour. This, however, was really a clever stratedy of a smaller orchestra to play the symphony faster so as to compensate the less powerful magnificence it could produce. The sections of the strings, the woodwind, the brass and the percussion of the orchestra all performed skilfully with professional fluency and sophistication. The task of the woodwind instruments and the horns was especially exceptionally demanding because they had to carry out many solo passages in the symphony and in the outcome none of the clarinet, the oboe, the flute, the bassoon or the horn players disappointed the audience by doing their jobs extraordinarily well.

The concert went into its climax as the grand chorus voices integrated with the orchestra in the fourth movement of the symphony. The chorus of a total of 77 singers as well as the soloist singers, namely the soprano, the mezzo-soprano, the tenor and the baritone, and the orchestra altogether performed Beethoven's Ninth breathtakingly, produced a magnificent and enthralling power deep to every heart in the concert hall. One could hardly discern a single bit of odd sound in the singing and the voices were sheer charm and beauty. Full integration of the vocal sound and the orchestra was accomplished and the haunting music of "Ode to Joy" was just hovering high over in the air of the concert hall.

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is always overwhelming and the performance of Northern Sinfonia and Chorus was no doubt a great success in this night's concert!

(Written on February 15, 2009)