Philip Pickett's Baroque Favourites
Hong Kong Sinfonietta
City Hall Concert Hall
Reviewed: August 31
British conductor Philip Pickett, true to his twinkling, smiling photo, seems to have won over the Sinfonietta players and did the same with the audience.
Baroque historical accuracy was in evidence but not to the point of affectation.
Handel's Overture to the Occasional Oratorio presented a balance problem: the brass and winds sounded cautious and thin at the beginning, but the strings were velvety and their closing notes left the hall ringing. The oboe solo was gracefully played by Mami Fukuhara.
Biber's Battalia was a delight - an excuse to include a cacophony of drunk soldiers' songs, foot-stomping, drum-like sounds using a piece of paper over the bass strings, gunshots with snapping pizzicato and crashing notes on the harpsichord.
In the Marcello oboe concerto, soloist Marrie Rose Kim sounded like a shepherd playing to the flock, a beautiful, earthy low register. She made astonishingly long lines with circular breathing.
Concertmaster James Cuddeford had extended solo parts in Locatelli's lively Concerto Grosso, showing his fleet passagework and poignant phrasing.
In Vivaldi's La Notte, Kate Lawson (above), the ensemble's principal flautist, has a confident sound. Her tone both soared above and melted into the orchestral sounds.
The balance issue returned in Bach's Suite No 3. To my ears, the brass and percussion were not integrated completely with the orchestra.
Bach's famous Air was played a little quicker than expected. Sentimentality was avoided. Even though this was perhaps not the way a singer would sing it, I was sold on the integrity of this approach.
The Bourrée had a lively bounce, and led into the Gigue without a break. The tricky beginning was not quite clear, perhaps a slight disappointment, but the ending was effective and strong.