Review: Frank Braley and Hong Kong Sinfonietta

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 November, 2014, 7:18am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 November, 2014, 7:18am

Frank Braley Plays Mozart
Hong Kong Sinfonietta
City Hall concert hall

A blend of experimental work and all-time classics on Friday night left music lovers with mixed feelings, but their appreciation for home-grown artists was uniform.

The full-house audience rewarded with long applause Ken Lam's leading of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta. In his second appearance in just over two months - with a different orchestra, a rare practice in the classical music industry - the US-based conductor showed convincingly why he could be an exception.

Opening the concert was Home City, Dream City, a world premiere by Daniel Lo Ting-cheung, a fellow Hong Kong-born composer and now a doctoral candidate in Britain. A 15-minute work, it featured live orchestra performing alongside field recordings on tape, an experimental work that was original and full of surprises. It opened with an excerpt from Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, which was taken over by sounds of traffic from the Tolo Highway, giving the effect of listening to music through earphones with incessant background noise.

The idea of blending urban noise with orchestral notes seems interesting. But it left the audience, and perhaps some players too, in wonderment.

Then, in the hands of Frank Braley, a French pianist with impressive originality, the autumnal mood many associate with Mozart's 27th Piano Concerto was absent. Instead, an exquisite lyricism in a leisurely tempo permeated the three movements.

For a classic such as Tchaikovsky's Pathetique Symphony, it would take something very special to leave a mark. Lam's reading, passionate but not indulgent, drew excellent playing from the orchestra. Despite a thinness in the bass, the structure had a fluent rhythmic flow. The dying pulse in the coda faded out to great effect, spoiled only by a few claps as the music dissipated.