Great Violin Concertos Hong Kong Sinfonietta City Hall Concert Hall Reviewed: Aug 31 Conductor Li Xincao's excellent Beethoven programme with the Hong Kong Sinfonietta last season proved to be difficult to forget, so there was great hope of a repeat with this concert. Conducting from memory, Li's eye contact with the players guaranteed tight delivery wherever he took the music. But in terms of interpretation, Sibelius' Violin Concerto didn't roam far. Soloist Susanne Hou Yijia gave a robust account of the first movement, but passed over numerous possibilities for rhapsodic shifts in timbre and mood. The intensity of sound was better suited to the slow movement, but even so the lyricism needed more time to breathe. Underneath, orchestral pizzicatos were more visible than audible; otherwise, support was reliable. Hou's stolid approach continued in the finale, romping home in a matter-of-fact way. There were few moments in Brahms' Symphony No2 that contradicted the composer's idiom. Li has an impressive ability to fuse musical cells into extended ideas with a drive that paints exhilarating journeys, not stodgy snapshots. Time will tell if he's prepared to reconsider the pace of the first movement and winkle out more opportunities for syncopation. Hidden details were coaxed into play, dense wind passages were well-disciplined and the strings found a richness of tone equal to their emotional hotspots. Li held a tight grip on the finale's climax, resisting a cheap dash to the finish - the intensity he'd prepared from the start was more than enough. In contrast, the accelerando injected at the end of Stravinsky's Circus Polka may not be in the score, but it certainly zapped this novelty item into a more genial conclusion.