Arts Preview: Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 February, 2013, 5:33pm

Music About China

The Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra

There's no better time to premiere works in the city than during the Hong Kong Arts Festival, and this year the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra's programme is packed entirely with music that will be performed here for the first time.

Of the four pieces, three are local debuts: Taiwanese composer Chung Yiu-kwong's sheng concerto, Music for Gourd; Chinese composer Hao Weiya's dizi concerto, Flowers Blooming on the Paths in the Fields; and his compatriot Wang Ning's The Ancient Cadence of Gui Plain. The sole world premiere - and the highlight of the one-night only concert - comes from an unlikely candidate in Polish pianist and composer Zygmunt Krauze.

The former president of the Polish chapter of the International Society for Contemporary Music is a veteran composer with more than 100 works, from opera to symphony, chamber and theatre music. Krauze's aptly titled Memories of the East, inspired by his time spent in Asia, marks his debut in Chinese orchestral music - but he doesn't appear to be too concerned about being the newbie on the block.

"There's no difference composing for Chinese or Western orchestras," the 74-year-old says. "Music is a global universe. If I compose for pipa or sheng it will be the same. There are only technical and sound differences, but the musical content, musical message, will be the same. Personal and individual expression of the composer is the most important."

In April last year, the Chinese Orchestra, with the sponsorship of the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation, invited Krauze to the city with the intention of commissioning a piece to debut at the Arts Festival. Krauze spent 10 days in Hong Kong getting better acquainted with the culture and the nuances of Chinese musical instruments. He stayed for the ensemble's May performance of Dream of the Red Chamber before returning home with fresh inspiration.

"While composing Memories of the East I was thinking of the memorable moments I spent in China, [Taiwan and Hong Kong]," says Krauze. "When composing, these memories transformed into a synthesis of emotion, expressed by musical themes and the sound of the orchestra."

Krauze has been to the city several times since the early 1980s; it is one of his favourite places. Although this is his first collaboration with the Chinese Orchestra, he has high praise for its work.

"[I] admire this orchestra for its professionalism and perfectionist attitude," says Krauze. "I know similar orchestras in Taipei, Kaohsiung and Beijing but [the Chinese Orchestra] is number one."

Sat, 8pm, HK City Hall, 5 Edinburgh Place, Central, HK$150-HK$380 Urbtix. Inquiries: 2824 2430 or