Refreshing departure has hall on a string
The Singing Violin
Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra
Cultural Centre Concert Hall
A world-class string maestro tapped the full potential of the Philharmonic's strings on Saturday, as they explored rare heights together. German soloist and concertmaster Kolja Blacher led the group to an inspired performance of works ranging from the baroque to Soviet Russia.
Leading from the front of the violins, he opened with a spirited reading of Mozart's Haffner Symphony, and without a conductor the players seemed to perform with extra energy.
The early music approach, with its brisk tempo and lean volume, resulted in a refreshing timbre, different to the big Mahlerian sound of departing chief conductor Edo de Waart.
The inner voices among the string sections were lucid, with fine phrasing, especially in the Andante, while the biting finale captured the great composer's charm and power.
In the ensuing two Bach violin concertos, Blacher showcased his art as an exceptional soloist. In particular, the E major concerto after the interval was given a most refined reading, with the violin's soft passage in the Adagio a moment of pure ecstasy.
But the highlight of the evening was without doubt the Chamber Symphony by Shostakovich. Written as a string quartet, the string ensemble format doubled the power and tragedy of the music. Playing without a break, the five string sections, led by Blacher in the concertmaster's seat, truly stilled the audience.
The raw power in the toccata second movement and the lyrical singing in the third all had great focus. The way the strings prepared for the great cello solo passage in the fourth movement was superb. The atmosphere was so tantalising up to the final quiet note that it took the audience a moment to wake up and applaud. A performance to remember.