Soloists - and conductor - ensure a night sublime
Conductors Festival 2011
Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra
Cultural Centre Concert Hall
Contrary to the concert's conductors theme, the programme featured soloists in three concertos, two of which were premieres.
The True Hearted, a concerto for erhu by China's prolific composer Zhao Jiping, built on a simple three-note theme introduced by the soloist Hsin Hsiao-hung, the orchestra's erhu principal, and recapitulated by woodwind and strings in traditional sonata form. The romantic tone prevailed throughout, expressing the composer's 'pious yearning for the ideal world'.
Less easy listening was Paris-based Chen Qigang's Extase IV for oboe and orchestra. The 20-minute work started with a rather loose structure that suggested the composer's grief over the death of a young colleague whose music he used for the piece.
But the static atmosphere turned alive when the oboe sang the famous Shaanbei folk melody Sanshilipu in Peking Opera style. The virtuosic playing by Huang Zheng, former oboe principal of the Hong Kong Philharmonic, was challenged only by his Chinese Orchestra counterpart, the suona principal, who in the finale repeated the folk tune with great authenticity.
Renowned cellist Wang Jian stole the limelight with his passionate reading of Zhuang Zhou's Dream, another romantic piece by Zhao Jiping.
Wang's lyrical line, especially in the quiet passages, was mesmerising and garnered greater emotional depth than the premiere performance by Yo Yo Ma three years ago. The orchestra provided superb backup. The dreamy atmosphere generated by the strings and winds was ecstatic. Conductor Yan Huichang had his share of the evening, opening and ending the concert. Both works were by his mentor, the late Peng Xiuwen, and Yan delivered them with decorum, especially the concluding work, an extract from the Peking Opera Azalea Mountain. The two encores, A Rose for You and General's Command, put a final stamp on the concert's theme.