Classic story a musical triumph

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 May, 2012, 12:00am


Dream of the Red Chamber
Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra
City Hall Concert Hall
May 4

A Chinese literary classic inspired two new orchestral works that premiered last weekend to the delight of its many aficionados.

The Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra dedicated its entire concert to the 18th century masterpiece Dream of the Red Chamber. It featured three works related to Beijing composer Wang Li-ping's music for the nationally acclaimed 1987 TV series based on the novel. Two of these were commissioned by the orchestra.

The concert opened with excerpts from Wang's original scores. In The Red Chamber Lament, the mesmerising strings and the singing sheng, a woodwind instrument, set the scene with a once-upon-a-time mood. The dreamy atmosphere changed with the playful rhythm in Granny Liu, led by the superb three-string fiddle, whose dialogue with the mini cymbals was exquisite. The pensive mood returned in Dear Ones Parted, giving full play to the huqin's melancholy timbre.

Local composer Hui Cheung-wai took up the daunting task of adapting veteran Shanghai composer Chen Gang's 2006 arrangement of Dream of the Red Chamber for solo violin and Western orchestra to the Chinese band and it worked well. Soloist Yao Jue played with command, and the orchestral tutti in the coda recapitulating the theme was a tour de force.

Trey Lee, a top local cellist, took a more lyrical approach in the world premiere he and Taiwanese composer Tung Chao-ming put together for cello and Chinese orchestra.

Superb orchestration allowed the distinct sounds of the Chinese instruments to shine. The final build-up brought an emotional high almost on par with that evoked by great classics.