Joshua Bell plays Tchaikovsky
Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra
Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall
Reviewed: Jul 6
Soloist Joshua Bell redefined Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in a performance that put its warhorse reputation out to pasture.
His conservative approach in the first movement was persuasive, if you were prepared to turn a deaf ear to the occasionally dull orchestral interlude. Elegant musicianship replaced gutsy oratory, and just about convinced you that this reserved concept might have been Tchaikovsky's real intention. Conductor Andrey Boreyko kept the orchestra firmly subservient, not easy in parts of the slow movement when Bell's sweetly intimate sound dropped to virtually nothing.
The finale, originally lambasted for its cheap atmosphere of drunken peasants, was more teetotal in Bell's hands. The sense of abandon came as a pleasant boost to the excitement of the closing pages.
Boreyko's reading of Prokofiev's Symphony No5 began with a measured, but ultimately powerful opening movement, his intelligent direction pinpointing the score's colours and lead-lines. Doubts arose from slow speeds that barely delivered the robotic drive in the second movement, set the opening of the third nearer the level of a dirge and diluted the finale's fun.
The programme opened with Musica dolorosa by Peteris Vasks, who describes the work for strings as containing 'no optimism - only pain'. Yet his well-paced writing unfolded with bittersweet sounds, gently leading the listener to the central agony that was beautifully complemented by Richard Bamping's emotionally charged cello solo.