Stage holds no fear for Hong Kong prodigy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2012, 12:00am


Butterfly Lovers & Yellow River
Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra
Cultural Centre Concert Hall
June 22

'A calf holds no fear of tigers' is an old Chinese saying that could be used to describe prodigy Chloe Pak. The 12-year-old tackled the Yellow River Piano Concerto, a four-movement work of taxing virtuosity, and pulled it off triumphantly.

The Hongkonger, who is now studying at the Beijing Central Conservatory, showed no sign of stage fright and performed with ease the roaring arpeggio in the opening Boatmen song and the lyrical theme in Ode to Yellow River. Her Wrath movement was superb and her tender hands survived the bombastic Defend the Yellow River. Thunderous applause followed and in turn was rewarded with a delightful encore, the Puppet Toy by Chinese composer Wang Lisan.

Ironically, the only nervousness appeared to come from the orchestra's concertmaster Hsin Hsiao-ling, who was the soloist in the Butterfly Lovers concerto. Hsin, who is Pak's aunt, quickly regained her composure after the opening notes and brought out the music profoundly romantic yet tragic sentiment.

It was an evening that showcased the orchestra in top form under Shanghai-based guest conductor Chen Xieyang, who opened with his own opuses. First came A Medley, based on popular Cantonese music, with extra cheers received for The Dragon Boat Race, coming on the eve of the annual festival. Then came The Chrysanthemum Terrace by Taiwanese pop singer Jay Chou and orchestrated by Chen for erhu and gehu, the Chinese violin and cello equivalents. The work highlighted the sublime colour of the instruments.

But what brought the house down was Tan Dun's Northwest Suite. All four movements showed brilliant work, in evoking the raw folklore of the Loess Plateau, particularly when the four Chinese drums were in unison with the players' chants.