Review: Hong Kong Sinfonietta and Rafäel Sévère

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 May, 2014, 9:39am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 May, 2014, 9:39am

Hong Kong Sinfonietta and Raphäel Sévère
HK City Hall Concert Hall
Reviewed: May 17

Rafäel Sévère, with his ebony hair and upright stance, is the very image of his instrument - the clarinet. He played Carl Maria von Weber's Clarinet Concerto No 1 in F Minor with superb refinement and spirit. It was a delight to hear the clarinet without extraneous breathiness or key clicks.

Weber's music can devolve into finger exercises, but this performance captured the composer's delicate, early romantic style.

Weber's fine ear caught effects unique to the clarinet like agile leaps, trills, earthy low notes and clarion high notes, and Sévère and the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, under the baton of Yip Wing-sie, coordinated deftly to bring out the most in these ideas.

The second movement aria was lovely, although a chorale section with horns and bassoon lacked magic. The third movement was the most inventive, with a bouncy rondo theme introduced with clever transitions, interlaced with contrasting themes from wistful to jaunty.

The concert opener was Le Corsaire by Hector Berlioz, which offered the full throes of romantic turbulence.

The strings took off like rockets, showing nimble fingers and flashing bows. The following adagio sostenuto was tenderly played. The orchestration showed the brilliant side of the sinfonietta, with woodwinds in the high ranges and Berlioz' trademark powerful low brass.

César Franck's Symphony in D Minor began with a shadowy, ambiguous motive in the low strings. We were in the world of late romanticism, discussing dark matters in the lower instrumental registers. The glorious major key themes were beautifully played by woodwind and brass soloists.

The second movement's haunting English horn melody with harp accompaniment was also splendidly played.

Alexis Alrich