Review: Tchaikovsky

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 September, 2013, 9:54am

Wendy Law Plays Tchaikovsky
Hong Kong Sinfonietta
HK City Hall Concert Hall
Reviewed: Sept 21

When I heard the sound of a sheng conjured out of the Sinfonietta's wind section, I knew I was in the hands of a fine orchestrator. Composer Huang Ruo also imitated the suona and lion dance percussion so well I couldn't tell how it was done.

His Folk Songs for Orchestra are some of the best arrangements of Chinese folk songs I have heard, and it makes a wonderful concert opener.

The Flower Drum Song from Feng Yang is traditionally used for street buskers. The trill opening settled into a pretty texture of flute and oboe with plucked strings. For Love Song from Kang Ding the music was sweetly romantic with sophisticated string harmonies.

The Girl from the Da Ban City is a Uyghur song from Xinjiang, and was given a rousing brass and percussion setting.

Wendy Law (below centre) was the cello soloist in the Tchaikovsky Variations on a Rococo Theme. She conveyed the mood with flair. However, her tone was at times edgy and the intonation and bowing were not always clean, especially in some crucial moments at the top of climactic phrases. But her lyrical, meditative playing in the two andante sections had the audience rapt.

The Shostakovich knocked my socks off. The long arcs of his Symphony No 10 were admirably shaped by conductor Chien Wen-pin. The strings opened like whispering conspirators. The clarinet entrance was a stunning contrast in this stark landscape. Other memorable moments were the big, plush-sounding viola section, sweet piccolo notes, earthy violins on the G string and a fabulous clarinet duet. A recurring horn call was beautifully played by Hermann Paw. The notes of this call spell the name "Elvira", a young student of Shostakovich's.

The conductor and orchestra were tightly together in the exciting rhythmic gestures. The eruption of a triumphant major chord in the ending was shattering in the context of the grim music that went before.

The orchestra was joined by student string players from Tainan University of the Arts in Taiwan and the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.

Alexis Alrich