Lio Kuok-wai Plays Mozart
Hong Kong Sinfonietta
City Hall Concert Hall
Reviewed: March 27
The poster for this concert in the Sinfonietta's Great Piano Concertos series put the young Macau-born soloist Lio Kuok-wai at the centre and conductor Li Xincao in a subsidiary corner. In terms of dominance in the actual performance, however, the roles were reversed.
This is the fifth time Li has conducted the orchestra, suggesting a mutual compatibility. Wednesday's programme comprised works by Mozart and Beethoven, and Li's impressive handling of the latter's 7th Symphony in 2006 still lingered in the memory.
This time, the Fifth Symphony comes to the fore. Taking four years to complete, the 30-minute work is generally known only by its first three seconds, and when conductors do not assimilate the rest of the work's peculiar essence, one wishes they had stopped after that iconic opening.
Beethoven's life was in turmoil around the time of composing this symphony. Something of that despairing feel permeates the work as it ricochets from one moment of unconventionality to another.
Although the eccentricity slightly lost steam during the finale and its loop-tape closing chords, Li gave an interpretation that was compelling both in detail and the bigger picture. His understated gestures indicated all the work had been done in rehearsal, and it was time to stand back and enjoy the fruits.
But balance in the wind was occasionally uneven and the piccolo sounded shy.
The reception to one of Mozart's earliest renditions of his Piano Concerto No 22 was so ecstatic that he had to immediately repeat it. That benchmark still applies today, but the limited chemistry between orchestra and soloist here diluted the spontaneity.
Lio gave a technically flawless performance, but one wished the colour he found in the first movement's cadenza continued in the rest of the work. Sharing a smile with the audience also wouldn't hurt. Sam Olluver
Contemporary Dance Series
Hong Kong Jockey Club
Studio Theatre, Cultural Centre
Reviewed: March 21
Hong Kong Dance Company, Sheung Wan Civic Centre
Reviewed: March 22
Two shows featuring emerging choreographers prove that local talent is alive and kicking.
Drama: Dance, under the 8/F Platform series, gave three Hong Kong Ballet dancers the chance to choreograph their Chinese-dance-trained peers. The result was three short pieces that showcased the astonishing talents of the company's artists, while bringing a welcome touch of sophistication.
Jonathan Spigner's admirably succinct and focused SoLo flaunted Liu Yinghong's skills to great effect. Li Jia-bo's original score was fluid, particularly his duet for Mi Tao and Tang Ya, Something We Always Carry, which featured complex moves and subtle emotional undertones.
The most ambitious piece, Li Yiran's Movement II: Tirol Concerto for Piano and Orchestra needed more rehearsal time for the show's three pairings, but gave a glimpse of Li's musicality and ability to challenge.
Liu appeared again, this time with another Dance Company veteran, Huang Lei, in a fascinating opportunity to watch Hong Kong's finest dancers perform completely in sync and yet somehow retain their individuality.
While the three guest choreographers delivered pure dance, the drama was provided by Chen Jun, whose one-hour Rouge reflected the company's trademark skill at Chinese dance-melodrama. This was a remarkable achievement for a workshop piece. Chen is a strong storyteller, and while his choreography is conventional, it is consistent and has flashes of originality. Chen impressively handles large numbers of dancers, and shows particularly good choreography for the men.
However, the ending is confusing and some passages could be strengthened. Still, Rouge holds great potential, and Pan Lingjuan and Chen Rong were outstanding.
Meanwhile, the Jockey Club again sponsors a dance programme for the 2013 Arts Festival, inviting back all but one of last year's choreographers. Programme 1 consisted of three diverse pieces. The highlight was RUSH, created by a group of five dancer friends from different disciplines (ballet, Chinese and contemporary dance), Li Cheng, Ricky Hu, Yo Takahira, Yang Hao and Yuan Sheng-lun.
RUSH is a black comedy on workplace bullying and the hectic pace of urban life. Technically demanding, it was incisive, taut and superb.
The same cannot be said for noted choreographer Justyne Li's What's the Matter?, which does not rank among her best. Though it has striking moments, it fails to cohere as a whole.