Pianist Evgeny Kissin and Hungarian, Italian ensembles to play Beethoven, Rachmaninoff and Mozart classics in Hong Kong
Concerts by former child prodigy, Kodaly Quartet and Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in October and November part of city's Encore Series
Hong Kong music lovers have three outstanding shows to look forward to during the next two months.
The performances, covering 200 years of some of the finest classical music ever written – with a particular focus on Beethoven – also showcase some of today’s exceptionally skilled musicians.
Russia’s Evgeny Kissin, who first rose to fame as a child prodigy and has been described as the greatest living pianist, plays Rachmaninov and Beethoven.
The highly acclaimed and award-winning Kodaly Quartet from Hungary, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016, will play string quartets by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.
Also, Italy’s premiere orchestra, the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia - Roma, founded more than 100 years ago, plays Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov (with guest pianist Daniil Trifonov) and Beethoven (with guest pianist Seong-Jin Cho).
Together, these musicians encompass a music tradition that spans almost 500 years.
1585 – founding of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, one of the oldest music centres in the world. It has evolved into a modern academy, with an orchestra of international repute.
1732 – birth of Austrian composer Joseph Haydn. He was instrumental in the development of chamber music, such as the piano trio. He is sometimes described as Father of the Symphony and Father of the String Quartet because of his contributions to musical form.
The Kodaly Quartet will be playing Haydn’s String Quartet in G major, Op 77.
“Haydn is considered the ‘father of string quartet writing’,” Gyorgy Eder, the quartet’s cellist, says. “He is also geographically linked to us – he lived in Hungary for many years in the service of Prince Esterházy.
“As the first of the great Viennese classical composers, his works are essential for all musicians, part of our studies, and celebrated programme numbers of the repertoire.”
1756 – birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Salzburg, Austria. Mozart showed prodigious ability as a young child and was a prolific and influential composer of the classical era. Haydn and Mozart were friends, as well as teacher and student.
1770 – birth of Ludwig van Beethoven in Bonn, Germany. Beethoven bridged the Classical and Romantic eras in classical music and is one of the most influential composers in history.
1784 – Mozart writes String Quartet No 17 in B-flat major, K 458, nicknamed “The Hunt”, the fourth of his quartets dedicated to Haydn.
The Kodaly Quartet will be playing this piece in Hong Kong in November.
“Of course, the idea could have been to show how quartet writing developed in a short period of time – from what Mozart learned from his old, highly respected master, Haydn,” Eder says.
“But, funnily enough, the Haydn piece we are playing originates some 15 years later than the Mozart [piece], as Haydn outlived his pupil.
“We always play all Mozart’s quartets with great pleasure and it just so happened that we have chosen to play this particular one this time in Hong Kong.”
1804 – birth of Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka in the Smolensk Governorate of the Tsardom of Russia. He is widely considered the architect of Russian classical music. The Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia will be playing Glinka’s Overture to Ruslan and Lyudmila at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre in November.
1806 - Beethoven writes his three “Razumovsky” string quartets, Op 59, commissioned by the Russian ambassador in Vienna, Count Andreas Razumovsky.
The Kodaly Quartet will be playing String Quartet No 8 in E minor, Op 59, No 2.
“Beethoven’s quartets followed in the direct lineage of Haydn and Mozart,” Eder says.
“In the group of three quartets dedicated to Prince Razumovsky, he brought drama, strength and power to quartet writing.”
“The Russian ambassador in Vienna at the time – collector and patron of arts, a violin player himself – commissioned three new quartets with the provision that each of them had to have a Russian theme.
“It is in the third movement of the piece we will be playing in Hong Kong that the ‘Slava’ melody – well known from Mussorgsky’s opera, Boris Godunov – appears.”
1818 – Beethoven completes writing Sonata No 29 in B-flat major, Op 106, often called “Hammerklavier”. The piano sonata is widely viewed as being among the greatest piano sonatas of all time and one of the most demanding solo works in the classical piano repertoire.
Kissin will be playing this sonata in Hong Kong in October.
Savio Lau, editor of the music section of Hi Fi Review, says the audience should expect a seamless and intense performance.
“Difficult passages of Beethoven may seem easy for him,” Lau says.
“It will be a very pianistic and intense rendering of the piece. I expect he will play the ‘orchestral’ textures and voicings clearly.
“Judging from his recent Beethoven recording, I’d expect there to be natural rubato [temporary disregarding of the strict tempo to facilitate expressiveness] and the overall architecture of the great piece won't be overlooked.”
1840 – birth of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in Votkinsk, Russia. The romantic-period music of this composer, including his three ballets The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty, remains wildly popular.
The Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia will be playing Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4 in F minor, Op 36 in Hong Kong.
The symphony was not well-received when it was first played in 1878, but has now become one of the most frequently performed late-19th century symphonies and is ranked as one of Tchaikovsky’s best.
1873 – birth of Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninov in Starorussky Uyezd, Russia. The works of this pianist, composer, and conductor are among the most popular in the Romantic repertoire.
Next month, Kissin will be playing 10 Preludes from Op 23, Nos 1-7, and 13 Preludes from Op 32, Nos 10, 12 and 13, considered to be among Rachmaninoff's best works for solo piano, at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre.
The Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia will be playing Rachmaninov’s Concerto No 3 in D minor, Op 30 with Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov on the piano in November. It is regarded as being one of the most technically challenging piano concertos in the standard classical repertoire.
1875 – founding of Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, Hungary. The Kodaly Quartet is associated primarily with this academy; the current members of the quartet are all graduates.
“The Liszt Academy is the No 1 music school in Hungary, with a long tradition,” Eder says. “Established by [composer and pianist] Franz Liszt, the academy has had many great masters in the faculty, including violinist Jeno Hubay, cellist David Popper, pianist and composer Béla Bartók, pianist Ernst von Dohnanyi and composer Zoltan Kodaly.
“The academy has a world-famous chamber music class, which has been led by Leo Weiner, András Mihály and György Kurtág. And the tradition goes on …”
1908 – founding of Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. The orchestra was the first in Italy to devote itself exclusively to the symphonic repertoire. Its conductors have included some of the major musical figures of the 20th century, including Mahler, Debussy, Saint-Saëns, Strauss, Stravinsky, Sibelius and Toscanini.
Late Leonard Bernstein, one of the first conductors born and educated in the US to receive worldwide acclaim, was honorary president from 1983 to 1990.
1966 – founding of Kodaly Quartet in Budapest, Hungary. The quartet rose to international fame with its recording of Haydn’s string quartets. It has since also recorded the complete cycles of Beethoven and Schubert for the Naxos label.
1971 – birth of Evgeny Igorevitch Kissin in Moscow, Russia. Kissin, now a British and Israeli citizen, has been called a “lion” of the keyboard.
1972 – Kissin sings the theme of a Bach fugue after listening to his 11-year-old sister play it on the piano.
1973 – At the age of two, when he was just tall enough to reach the keyboard, Kissin begins improvising on the piano.
1984 – Kissin records Chopin’s Piano Concerto Nos 1 and 2 at the age of 12.
Lau says that Kissin’s mastery of the piano is “phenomenal”, but that is “not the key point”.
He says: “As Kissin himself points out: ‘The Russian audience said that I am not a child prodigy but a precocious artist.’
“He showed a very deep and heartfelt understanding of music in his early teens, and he works hard consistently to meet his own ideals.
“No matter whether you like his interpretation of a certain piece or not, you can never doubt his dedication to his art.”
2005 – Sir Antonio Pappano joins the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia as music director. The orchestra has enjoyed extraordinary success under his direction.
2009 – Kissin accepts an honorary doctorate of letters from the University of Hong Kong.
2018 – October 24, 8pm, Concert Hall, Hong Kong Cultural Centre
Encore Series: Piano Recital by Evgeny Kissin
Beethoven, Sonata No 29 in B major, Op 106, “Hammerklavier”
Rachmaninov, 10 Preludes from Op 23, Nos 1-7, 13 Preludes from Op 32, Nos 10, 12 and 13
2018 – November 22, 8pm, Concert Hall, Hong Kong Cultural Centre
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia – Roma
Glinka, Overture to Ruslan and Lyudmila
Rachmaninoff, Piano Concerto No 3 in D minor, Op 30, (Piano: Daniil Trifonov)
Tchaikovsky, Symphony No 4 in F minor, Op 36
2018 – November 23, 8pm, Concert Hall, Hong Kong Cultural Centre
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia – Roma
Beethoven, Symphony No 2 in D major, Op 36
Beethoven, Piano Concerto No 3 in C minor, Op 37 (Piano: Seong-Jin Cho)
Beethoven, Symphony No 5 in C minor, Op 67
2018 – November 26, 8pm, Concert Hall, Hong Kong City Hall
Encore Series: Kodaly Quartet
Haydn, String Quartet in G major, Op 77
Mozart, String Quartet No 17 in B-flat major, K 458, “The Hunt”