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Classical music

Russian virtuoso Evgeny Kissin excels in evening of Liszt and Richard Strauss with Hong Kong Philharmonic

  • Soloist mixes power, virtuosity and incredible lightness of touch in performance of Liszt’s Piano Concerto No 1 with HK Phil under Latvian Andris Poga
  • Orchestra shines in Liszt’s Les Preludes and Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra, with brass and concertmaster’s contributions especially noteworthy
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 December, 2018, 5:30pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 December, 2018, 5:47pm

Lucky Hong Kong. Hot on the heels of Daniil Trifonov’s stunning rendition of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3, another, more established Russian virtuoso, Evgeny Kissin, gave a brilliant performance of Liszt’s Piano Concerto No 1 with the Hong Kong Philharmonic on Wednesday.

The orchestra, under the baton of Latvian conductor Andris Poga, also impressed in symphonic poems by the same composer and Richard Strauss.

Liszt’s Symphonic Poem no. 3, Les Préludes got proceedings off to a rousing start. The Phil’s performance of the work, a setting of poems by Alphonse de Lamartine, was wonderfully expansive and unhurried, the ensemble playing tight. The brass executed the double-dotted rhythms with brilliant precision, the trumpets excelled in the central “Storm” section and triumphant “Battle and Victory” finale, and the upper strings were animated throughout.

Kissin, after a muscular rendition of the concerto’s introductory outburst, showed its ethereal qualities, playing with an incredible lightness of touch in the reflective quasi Adagio section. The long trilling on high notes that leads into the playful, scherzo-like Allegretto vivace – Allegro animato was particularly captivating.

His abundant virtuosity was on full show in Liszt’s bravura finale, loaded with cascading and contrary octaves and played at breakneck speed.

The dazzled audience managed to coax three encores – waltzes by Chopin and Brahms and a Rachmaninov prelude – from the Russian.

Strauss’ epic tone poem for large orchestra Also Sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spake Zarathustra) followed the interval. Poga led the Phil with clarity and provided ample space for players to shine and to highlight the major moments of Friedrich Nietzsche’s depiction of Zarathustra’s philosophical journey.

The tight brass playing spoke for itself yet again; from the trumpet’s opening presentation of Strauss’ three-note “World Riddle” or “Sunrise” theme (used famously in Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey) to the excellent ensemble horn playing in “Great Longing” and the unanimous trombone attack in the “Convalescent” section.

Of the many commendable contributions, concertmaster Jing Wang deserves special praise for his ever engaged and animated leadership, superb solo passages, and pure double-stopping in the joyous, waltz-like “Dance Song”.

Kissin Plays Liszt, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall.

Reviewed: December 5, 2018