Free anniversary concert an exuberant celebration of the music Premiere Performances has brought to Hong Kong
Organiser of chamber music and solo recitals marks 10 years of operations in style with virtuoso performances from some of the artists it has championed
For classical and romantic European composers, performance of chamber works at home among friends (so-called “Hausmusik”) was an important platform for airing instrumental compositions and songs. This tradition, virtually extinct nowadays, leaves a musical cavity that needs filling. That gap in Hong Kong’s musical life was well perceived by Premiere Performance’s founder, Andrea Fessler, and Sunday evening’s free 10th Anniversary Gala Concert in the Cultural Centre (albeit a problematic venue for chamber music) fittingly celebrated a decade of fine music-making.
Ewazen’s Grand Valley Fanfare, rousingly performed by the Fiesta Brass Quintet from the balcony behind the stage, aptly kicked off the evening’s festivities, with Australian host Gregory Rivers ensuring a festive mood.
Sa Chen’s playing of Chopin Mazurkas was delightful, showing a Horowitz-like charm and grace in the B minor Mazurka.
A momentary memory lapse didn’t detract from violist Maxim Rysanov’s sumptuous and focused sound production in the first movement of Schubert’s late Arpeggione sonata for viola and piano D. 821, in which he was beautifully accompanied by pianist Alessio Bax.
Rysanov was then joined by violinist Cho-Liang Lin, violist Andrew Ling, cellist Richard Bamping and Canadian pianist Lucille Chung in an exuberant performance of the first movement of Schumann’s E-flat Major piano quintet. The tumultuous musical exchange left one craving the relief offered by the reflective quietness of the work’s second movement. But a party it was and virtuosic music prevailed.
Violinists Lin and Ning Feng soon settled into the pyrotechnics of Sarasate’s Navarra, impressively performed and accompanied with dexterity by Taiwan-born, Hong Kong-based pianist Evelyn Chang.
Ning, Rysanov, Bax and cellist Li-Wei Qin then played the fiery fourth movement of Brahms’ Piano Quartet no. 1 in G minor, the gypsy-like Rondo alla zingarese, with infectious musicality.
After the interval, a surprise appearance by guitarist and crowd favourite Miloš Karadaglic included a beautiful solo version of the Beatles hit Yesterday.
A notable highlight was the gorgeous, focused sound from Ning’s violin and the excellent ensemble playing of Qin and Chen in the opening movement of Mendelssohn’s piano trio in D Minor op. 49.
Double bassist Daxun Zhang then joined the party, playing the theme and variations from the fourth movement of Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet D.667. Balance suffered here on occasion and heavy articulation left the impression of a fish struggling to swim upstream.
Variations on themes were abundant, and what party would be complete without a rendition of Happy Birthday Variationscourtesy of the Viva! Pipers woodwind quintet, well-known to Hong Kong kindergarteners and schoolchildren.
Bravura displays on the piano dominated the programme from there on: Bax and Chung performed Lutoslawski’s somewhat disjointed variations on Niccolo Paganini’s violin caprice for four hands and were joined by Chen and Chang for music by Mack Wilberg for eight hands.
There were smiles around after an encore from the string players of Vittorio Monti’s Czardas.