Closing Concert of the 2013 Chinese Composers' Festival
Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra HK Cultural Centre Concert Hall
Reviewed: December 7
The Chinese Composers' Festival has a distinguished history, especially for introducing mainland composers Tan Dun, Chen Yi and Zhou Long to Western audiences in 1986. This concert revealed the two main paths of contemporary Chinese composers: traditionalism and modernism.
Theatrical Colours used the stellar forces of the HKCO to wonderful effect. Composer Liu Wenjin elicited a resonant, warm sound from the strings; used colourful percussion; showed off the exquisite plucked instruments; and created piquant solos and duets for the zheng, flute and pipa. The jinghu and jingerhu soloists played like virtuoso fiddlers with darting slides, stop-and-start rhythms and blazingly fast runs.
Soprano Wang Yige (below) sang expressively, gracing the performance with elegant hand gestures.
After a few shimmering harmonics, erhu player Deng Jiandong launched into a melody over asymmetrical drums and plucked strings. Other sounds caught my ear, including a charming clock-like texture with triangle and vibraphone. A leisurely poignant melody was a high point in the evening.
Judging by the empty seats, it is hard to sell so-called modern music, but this was imaginative and fresh, and a possible way forward.
Guo Wenjing's Dizi Concerto opened with an impressive display of alternate fingering trills and long breaths. Soloist Tang Junqiao's tone was gorgeous, from strong and reedy to pure and soft on three flutes: small, medium and large. The orchestra was used with imagination and skill.
But the harmony was disorienting - no sooner was a key area presented than it was whisked away. The flute was lacking in compelling material, playing whirling figurations and was, at times, almost too fast to hear the pitches. The mood of sorrow lacked relief.