Review: Know Your Favourite Orchestral Tunes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 10:18am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 10:18am

Know Your Favourite Orchestral Tunes
Hong Kong Sinfonietta
HK City Hall
Reviewed: February 15

There is no need to worry about the future of orchestral music, or "good music" as conductor Yip Wing-sie calls it, in this city. This concert had irresistible tunes played beautifully with the hard parts left out. Judging by the full house, laughter and warm applause, this method was a hit with the family audience, some of whom will surely grow up to be fans for life.

The crowd was drawn in in many ways, from Yip's charming banter, to an audience sing-along, to orchestral players sharing their favourite melodies, to a running joke with a mobile phone ring tone playing Mozart. Yip's favourite, Rachmaninoff's Vocalise, was presented with loving nuance. Some children squirmed and chattered, but the adults were rewarded with a transparent, melting string opening, flexible and graceful dynamics and phrasing, and Rachmaninoff's mounting passion kept within tasteful bounds.

On the other hand, the Andante Cantabile movement of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No 5 has a melody that captures a powerful emotion that was not fully embodied by the horn soloist. The Sinfonietta winds and brass are less dependable as a whole than the polished string sections. That said, the English horn solo played by Mami Fukuhara was sublime in the Largo from Dvorak's Symphony No 9, "From the New World". I could hear my neighbour singing along gently.

The Molto allegro from Mozart's Symphony No 40 was played with spirited momentum. The audience was asked which was better, the Mozart electronic ring tone or the real orchestra, which elicited fervent applause.

Debussy's Claire de Lune was not served well by the unimaginative and ill-balanced orchestration that was used, although there were some nice moments with harp and strings.

The last piece, the Orpheus in the Underworld Overture by Offenbach, was played with zest and fire. The clarinet had a brilliant solo, and the oboe and cello had fine turns as well. Concertmaster James Cuddeford stood out in his solo, elevating a sentimental melody to eloquence with sweetness and authority. A snare roll and fabulous trombones and triangle had my concert companion conducting with his index finger, and a bouncy little girl in front of me was finally getting in tune wit the moment.

Alexis Alrich


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