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Review: Double Bass-Mania: Edicson Ruiz plays Dittersdorf

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 9:45am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 9:45am

Double Bass-Mania: Edicson Ruiz plays Dittersdorf
Hong Kong Sinfonietta
HK City Hall Concert Hall
Reviewed: August 9

A new corner of the globe, Venezuela, has recently flooded classical music with vitality.

Edicson Ruiz - who performed Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf's Double Bass Concerto No 2 with the Hong Kong Sinfonietta - was trained in El Sistema, the network of children's orchestras that also produced the brilliant young conductor Gustavo Dudamel.

Ruiz, not yet 30 years old, wore a flowing, untucked shirt and played with the effortless joy of a boy doing tricks on a skateboard. The concerto was inventive and engaging if lacking the urgency of the music of Dittersdorf's friends Mozart and Haydn.

Cross-string passagework was virtuosic and doubly entertaining on the unwieldy bass. Ruiz swayed like a bear while skipping his bow lightly over the strings. He played the lyrical slow movement with clean intonation and a sweet vibrato. His marksmanship was spectacular on the high harmonics.

Chien Wen-pin is the conductor of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein and you could hear the influence of opera in his approach, with fluid scene changes, vivid storytelling and a bold range of dynamics.

He radiated confidence in Richard Strauss' two poems, Don Juan and Till Eulenspiegel. There was a delicious oboe solo with lovely long notes and artful hesitations. Clarinet solos were played with a flourish. The horn had a mixed night, with some wonderful ringing phrases and several misses. On the return of the same passage, every note was in place. Till Eulenspiegel ended the concert with over-the-top climaxes, with the percussion particularly excellent. Chien was born to conduct Mozart and gave his Symphony No 35 in D, Haffner, a beautiful performance.

The first movement had a satisfying, Beethoven-esque weight. The Andante and Finale: Presto were too rushed for my taste, lacking the tranquility of the Andante and the depth of sound in the Presto.

Alexis Alrich