Martin Lim

The 1978 film Autumn Sonata translates surprisingly well to Sebastian Fagerlund’s opera work of the same name, performed by the Hong Kong Philharmonic. The singers excel, but the star of the show is the score itself.

Simple, conservative production of Mozart’s ‘serious comedy’ allowed the work to speak for itself – quite a radical idea these days; Richard Ollarsaba as the decadent don and Joseph Barron as his wing man excelled.

Exciting, surprising performance that built to a transcendent conclusion showed clearly the evolution of the Hong Kong Philharmonic under its music director.

Chamber work by Carolyn Choa, based on a novel by Nobel laureate Yasunari Kawabata about a writer’s reunion with a much younger woman he had an affair with, overcomes the challenge of expressing what author leaves unsaid.


From bloody red to lush green to stark white, production of Wagner opera bore the unmistakable stamp of its Spanish director, Calixto Bieito; his bold visuals didn’t always flow comfortably with the music, however.

Musical and technical demands of performing West Side Story make it a most ambitious live project; conductor Jayce Ogren coaxed some fine playing from the Hong Kong Phil and stayed true to the film – but rarely at the same time

All-American programme had a rendering of Dvorak’s ‘New World’ symphony that made you sit up and listen, a studied performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide overture and Bernstein teacher Copland’s clarinet concerto

Concluding part of Wagner’s Ring cycle saw cast initially struggle to match the power of orchestra’s playing, and some of the singing didn’t match the transcendence of 2017’s Siegfried – but hey, the HKPhil finally did it

Annalena Persson’s performance as opera singer Emilia a standout in a successful undertaking in which staging and score flowed seamlessly and the cast acted and sang with dramatic conviction

The renowned bassist is a master of genres and dips into bluegrass, jazz, blues and Hadynesque playing in a performance that outshone the orchestra


Group founded by Pierre Boulez make Hong Kong debut with concert of seven contrasting works spanning over a century, including one inspired by 2015 axing of four Mid-Levels banyan trees

HKPhil music director was fully in charge of what can be a demanding work, even if its earthy interludes were glossed over, and orchestra and soloist were in perfect sync in Mozart violin concerto

French author and the mystery of his fictional sonata serve as pegs for recital of music for cello and piano, including a work by Proust’s companion Reynaldo Hahn

Novel concert programme matched youthful, lyrical Webern with masterful late Haydn, and influence of both could be heard in orchestra and soloist’s interpretation of Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2

Pianist used the demands of Beethoven’s most monumental keyboard work to illustrate its emotional depths in a programme of complementary works that allowed him to show the effortless grace of his artistry

Pierri’s programme contrasted works by Spanish classical composer Albéniz with folkloric tunes from Latin America; Li Shezao showed technique, showmanship and precocious poise

Unaffected playing gives voice to the stark differences in works from composer’s early, middle and late periods while also emphasising Beethoven’s unifying musical vision