Review of Hong Kong Sinfonietta and Big Nightmare Music programme

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 October, 2012, 5:42am

Hong Kong Sinfonietta
BIG Nightmare Music
HK City Hall Concert Hall
October 19

In one memorable scene in the 1977 James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me, the villain's underwater base, Atlantis, slowly emerges from the sea to the second movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto No 21 in C major.

At Friday's Hong Kong Sinfonietta concert, violinist Aleksey Igudesman and pianist Hyung-ki Joo showed there were other ways the Austrian classical composer and the suave secret agent could be connected.

Having argued over their opening number: Igudesman suggested Mozart while Joo insisted on "Bond" - the duo launched into a medley of famous Mozart tunes, including the opening of his Symphony No40 in G minor, K550, fused with the popular Bond theme.

How the melodies weaved seamlessly into one another was quite uncanny and, when the full orchestra joined in, the Bond music sounded grand and Mozart refreshingly jazzy.

Primarily targeting a younger audience, BIG Nightmare Music is a touring programme made up of popular classical pieces as well as works by modern composers including Johann Strauss Jnr's On the Beautiful Blue Danube; Rachmaninov's Prelude in C-sharp minor, Op 3 No2; Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik , K525 and Ennio Morricone's A Fistful of Dollars. Most of the rearrangements were done by the two classical musicians.

For this concert, the musicians had to do more than just play. They had to sing, cough and dance. Double bassist Masami Nagai and concertmaster James Cuddeford performed a tango for Igudesman's Uruguay (and later Cuddeford did a convincing imitation of British comedian John Cleese's silly walk).

In many ways, Igudesman and Joo and the Sinfonietta make perfect partners: the two cheeky musicians are known for their comical performances that turn classical music on its head, while the orchestra is renowned for its creative approach to popularising the genre.

Given the nature of this performance (quite slapstick at points), conductor Ken Lam kept the orchestra under control. Classical music can be reinterpreted in ways that will continue to challenge our perceptions of what the genre should be.