Vladimir Putin

Orchestral manoeuvres

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 September, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 September, 2000, 12:00am

If a wandering bard turned up here claiming to have found the lost chord, a speculator would offer to buy it in the hope of making a quick buck.

That's Hong Kong, after all. So if there's money in it, there will almost certainly be music buffs ready to queue for hours in the hope of a refund for having attended a concert with the wrong orchestra. That may now be the main worry of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which sold 90 per cent of the seats for six performances of the Moscow Philharmonic last month, only to find the authentic orchestra was touring Italy at the time.

Box office poison was never harder to swallow than this, just when the event seemed such a success. There was practically a full house every night and not a voice raised to question the players' credentials. Whoever the mysterious performers turn out to be, they seemed to satisfy the audience on the night. Even the Post's music critic, while expressing reservations over a sound which she found a little 'over the top' at times, had generally kind words to say about the performance. For those who speak the language, she thought the exciting accelerandos contrasted with the heart-stopping rubatos. So there.

And of course simply because the players weren't who they claimed to be doesn't necessarily mean they lacked virtuoso qualities. Perhaps pretending to be a properly constituted Russian orchestra was the only way they could prove their worth. In fact, there are only two conclusions to be drawn from the event. Either they were good enough to pass for the real thing, or the audience lacked the discernment to tell the difference.

Whichever way, it doesn't sound like much of a case for compensation, so the department should stop worrying about payouts and chalk the experience up to . . . well, experience. Booking the wrong band is a mistake anyone could make. But perhaps next time they could make a check call to President Putin.