Hong Kong New Music Ensemble
Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts Amphitheatre
Reviewed: October 27
Nature booked a typhoon on the original date, so this was the postponed season opener of the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble (below).
The ambitious and well-executed programme included a retrospective of the music of Gyorgi Ligeti, plus a premiere. It marked them as a serious player in the Hong Kong music scene.
The concert began with 100 metronomes in a ring. Then 100 children wound them up, and we waited for the them to wind down. This single-idea piece became a test of the audience's patience and they passed it, listening respectfully to the waning clicks.
In Continuum For Harpsichord Solo, Chung Chi Woo played the rapid notes seamlessly. The piece progressed from a few notes in the middle register through lively diminished chords and ended on a thrillingly high trill.
The Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet, composed in 1953, was a treat. Each movement was based on a single idea inventively used. There were many moments of mastery: a soaring flute solo over tricky staccato septuplet rhythms, a clarinet and oboe duet, a noble horn melody.
The Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano, composed in 1982, inhabited a more austere world. Kitty Man-yui Cheung's clear tones on violin were a delight.
Timothy Sun was the vivid saxophone soloist in Fung Lam's new work, Imaginary Friends.
The first movement had succinct, crisp lines interacting like a conversation. In the second movement, the strings were a lovely foil for the floaty saxophone melody.
Other movements brought out the throaty, jazzy side of the sax. At the top of one climax, two balloons popped. A metaphor for a later stage in a relationship? The last movement sounded distinctly angry with the instruments arguing back and forth.
This was also the debut of HKNME Chamber Voices, conducted by John Winzenburg. The voices were strong and united in their diction and tone. The three songs, Papaine, Magany, and Haj, ifjusag ! are within the tradition of Eastern European choral music but have a modernist edge.
The singers sounded gorgeous in unison, as well as when striking tremblingly transparent chords.