Classical music

Review: Florian Uhlig and Hong Kong Sinfonietta play Schumann

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 April, 2015, 6:23am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 May, 2015, 11:35am

Florian Uhlig Plays Schumann

Hong Kong Sinfonietta

City Hall Concert Hall

Reviewed: April 25

Conductor Roberto Forés Veses and the Sinfonietta illuminated new connections between Beethoven's Leonore Overture No 3 and Sibelius' Symphony No 4. The bleak, suspenseful atmospheres were surprisingly kindred, separated by Schumann's buoyant Piano Concerto in A minor.

Beethoven's Leonore Overture No 3 was intended as the opener for his opera Fidelio, but is now a stand-alone piece. Fidelio is about imprisonment, and the long, downward scales made a picture of the descent to a dark, damp dungeon. Forés Veses took a slow tempo and held in the energy through the tense harmonies and long chains of phrases.

Sweet flute notes opening a bright allegro theme dissipated the despondent mood. The orchestra and Forés Veses had a good rapport, and they played Beethoven's tricky rhythms neatly. Just before the ending quick scales ran up and down a merry-go-round, finally hopping off for the final brilliant statement.

Sibelius' symphony did not end in triumph. The whole piece had a sense of hovering and searching. The stark low strings and woodwinds in the first notes were sobering, and the cello solo was played with dark intensity by Chang Pei-chieh. The brass section was a solid core in unsettled chords that slowly resolved, in horn calls and in full-throated chorales. But the despairing mood prevailed, and radiant moments seemed fleeting.

The Schumann Concerto in A minor, on the other hand, was anything but bleak. The opening presented bold chords on the piano and an enchanting theme led by the oboe. The final allegro vivace had breathtaking changes of pulse.

Pianist Florian Uhlig had the perfect combination of sensitivity, power and imagination.