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Classical music

Keyboard whizz shows accordion’s full range in Hong Kong concert – review

Soloist Martynas Levickis showed dazzling technique in an entertaining evening that ranged from Bach and Vivaldi to Piazzolla and Lady Gaga, with City Chamber Orchestra playing its full part

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 February, 2018, 1:00pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 February, 2018, 1:00pm

Accordionist Martynas Levickis showed his instrument’s versatility in a City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong programme that catered for a broad spectrum of musical tastes, ranging from the Baroque of Antonio Vivaldi to Lady Gaga.

The Lithuanian is an exceptionally talented musician with technique to burn. Watching him, one soon gets over the novelty factor; his playing shed new light on an instrument that possesses a wealth of tonal capabilities.

The concert began with his depiction of a frigid landscape in “Winter” from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and, once the orchestra’s strings settled into their tempi, “Summer” from the same work soon shimmered with the right dose of theatrical effect.

Levickis effectively matched the ensemble’s upper strings in the opening Allegro movement of Mozart’s Concerto for Piano No. 12, robustly and ably led by concertmaster Amelia Chan. The accordion (unknown to Mozart) was the perfect tool for Levickis’ clever and witty solo cadenza.

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The soloist was an inspiration in “Love, Anxiety & Fear” from Astor Piazzolla’s Five Tango Sensations, with the accordion (or bandoneon, as favoured by the Argentinian composer) now right at home, although more interaction between Levickis and the orchestra would have delivered a tighter tango sound. The hushed pianissimo passages were dreamy, the rhythms intoxicating – as they also were later in Piazzolla’s Adios Nonino & Chiquilin de Bachin.

After an intermission the strings performed a highly charged Perpetuum Mobile by the Bohemian-born Viennese waltz composer Karel Komzak II, demonstrating skill and precision.

Peace and beauty prevailed in Johann Sebastian Bach’s much-loved Air on the G String from his Orchestral Suite No.3.

Levickis and the strings then moved on with relative ease to a version of Guiseppe Verdi’s Overture to La Forza Del Destino that was full of passionate energy.

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Both soloist and orchestra flirted in the Habanera from Georges Bizet’s Carmen and Rodriguez’s La Cumparsita; as promised by Levickis, a “genetically modified” Rondo Alla Turca, K331 by Mozart and Hungarian Dance No. 5 by Brahms followed. The two transcriptions were improvised to the full, often with barely a hint of the original material. Good rollicking improvisatory fun was also had by all in Gilles Apap’s LFAT (Looking for a Title).

Levickis wrapped up the entertaining programme with his own arrangement of Lady Gaga’s Telephone, leaving the audience dazzled and wanting more. He didn’t disappoint, with pure pyrotechnics in Figaro’s Aria from Rossini’s Barber of Seville and a hauntingly beautiful arrangement of the folk song Jau Aust Ausruze (It’s Already Dawn) from his native Lithuania.

City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong with Martynas Levickis

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Reviewed: February 9