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Review: Cellomania

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 July, 2014, 9:41am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 July, 2014, 9:41am

Cellomania
Daniel Müller-Schott Plays Dvorak
Hong Kong Sinfonietta
Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall
Reviewed: June 27

During the intense opening of Dvorak's Cello Concerto in B Minor, I assumed soloist Daniel Müller-Schott was of the fire-breathing school - but I was wrong. He is a songbird, with wonderfully sensitive vibrato, pacing and tone. He did full justice to the virtuoso elements, especially Dvorak's thrilling handoffs to the orchestra.

The orchestra was convincing, although occasionally the woodwind and brass ensembles needed a moment to lock into tune. The second theme, much like an American spiritual, was beautifully played by solo horn. The cadenza with flutes and bassoons in the second movement was spellbinding. The third movement had a sweet duet with solo violin, like the cello talking to its little brother. The cello part ended with a meditation, which Müller-Schott spun out into floating realms.

Grieving the Evanescing by Yang Tsung-hsien focused on tone colour. The melody, rhythm and harmony were there, but were veiled. Yang used Western instruments to evoke traditional Chinese instruments, bending notes on the timpani, conjuring the suona with brass and woodwinds, and harp and pizzicato evoking the pipa. An austere melody emerged on violin and flute.

The orchestra built to a climax with whooping brass and sliding strings, which looked fun to conduct, then the melody emerged again to die away in silence. But it had little musical flow, needing an audible harmonic design.

Expression was direct in Jean Sibelius' Symphony No 3 in C. Conductor Yip Wing-sie has an affinity with the Finnish composer, including the patience to build up his powerful oceanic landscapes. The opening sounded polished, with the woodwinds silky, the folk tunes jaunty and the pizzicatos precisely placed. The second movement had a lilting momentum. The cello section chorale was beautiful.

The last movement was called the " crystallisation of thought from chaos" by Sibelius and it didn't quite cohere in this performance. By the end the picture came into focus with a radiant anthem. Alexis Alrich

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