HK Cultural Centre - Celebrating 25 Years

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 November, 2014, 5:26pm
UPDATED : Monday, 10 November, 2014, 5:26pm

HK Philharmonic Orchestra

HK Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Reviewed: November 7

I was sceptical about celebrating a building, but this concert gave me a warm feeling for the Cultural Centre. Conductor Perry So imbued the music with freshness.

Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony exploded out of the gates with the first chord. It is a great tune and can be developed into light-footed dances, noble statements, or densely layered counterpoint.

Six years ago the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra strings were fuzzy around the edges, but perhaps due to the "Jaap effect" (Van Zweden has been music director since 2012) the sound has been scrubbed clean. Each moment was like a conversation where every word was clear. In the slow movement, the viola section led the orchestra with a commanding sound rarely heard from these shy voices. The piece finished with a spirited Saltarello; the clarity of the orchestra was outstanding .

The Hong Kong Philharmonic Chorus and the Learners Chorus joined the orchestra for Mozart's Ave verum corpus. This piece is simple but rich, with a tender texture like heavenly pastry. Its innocence is saved from insipidity by some crunchy harmonies. The choir shaped the phrases with taste, but the sopranos tightened up and were slightly flat on the high notes. The piece was repeated as an unplanned encore, the sopranos relaxed and floated up to their high notes in tune.

The opening of Beethoven's Choral Fantasy was a long string of piano arpeggios, ably played by Rachel Cheung. The main theme sounded like a rough draft of Ode to Joy, but the variations were a highlight, with a beautifully played flute solo and a charming string quartet.

Handel's Hallelujah Chorus always sounds terrific. In the passage "King of Kings", it coalesced into a sunburst of power, and the last note with organ, choir and orchestra was a pure affirmation in sound.