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Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

Concert Hall, Hong Kong Cultural Centre / Hong Kong / Jun 11, 2022 / Ernest Wan /

In the programme of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra’s César Franck at 200 concert, it is baffling to see, amid a pair of works by the French composer born two centuries ago in what is today Belgium, the utterly irrelevant Viola Concerto by the Hungarian Béla Bartók. This is especially odd considering that just the previous month the orchestra presented an all-Felix Mendelssohn programme, even though it never mentioned the 175th anniversary of the composer’s death; and that just last year it was engaged by another organisation to play not one but two programmes devoted exclusively to music by Camille Saint-Saëns, marking his death a century before.

That said, anyone who manages for a moment to refrain from pondering the context ought to feel grateful that the Bartók concerto gets performed at all. The composer left only sketches when he died in 1945, from which his former student Tibor Serly put together what would for decades remain the only performing edition, but the Hong Kong Philharmonic played the revised version prepared by Nelson Dellamaggiore and Peter Bartók, the composer’s son. The Luxembourg-born German conductor Robert Reimer led the orchestra in providing solid support to its principal violist Andrew Ling as soloist. For all the assurance Ling displayed in difficult passagework such as the chromatic runs with double stops in the first movement and the wild octave leaps near the start of the third, his playing would have profited from better projection and, particularly during the work’s many lyrical passages, a less wiry tone.

Robert Reimer and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra in Franck’s Symphony in D Minor. Photo by Ka Lam. Courtesy the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

Reimer’s account of Le chasseur maudit (1882), Franck’s symphonic poem about a nobleman defying the Sabbath to go hunting, suffered from a lack of textural clarity. The melody in the strings near the beginning, which represents the Sunday religious chanting ignored by the titular “accursed huntsman”, was largely drowned out by the rest of the orchestra until it was doubled by the brass, and subsequent tuttis sounded similarly muddy. The tricky tempo changes in the final section, where the blasphemous horseback hunter is chased by demons, is skilfully handled, however — a virtue that also greatly benefited the performance of the Symphony in D Minor (1888).

In the symphony, other than shifting gears smoothly, so crucial with the alternation of slow and fast in the opening movement, Reimer proved equally adept at highlighting moments of introspection, especially those in the poignant allegretto, an achievement that certainly helped one forget the botched cor anglais solo early on. Also impressive were the brass in the outer movements – which, though proud and prominent, never overpowered other instruments, and produced an organ-like sonority of which Franck, himself an outstanding organist, would likely have approved. Once a serious rival in popularity to Beethoven and Tchaikovsky symphonies, Franck’s D Minor dropped out of the standard repertoire about half a century ago. Programming one or two of his other works in place of the Bartók would have helped put the symphony in perspective and allowed the audience to better assess Franck’s legacy. A wasted opportunity.


暫且先擱下以上所提及的,其實我們都應該對巴托的協奏曲得以演出而心存感激。巴托於 1945 年身故後只留下了手稿,他的學生塞利把其樂章整理成為流傳後世的唯一演奏版本,而香港管弦樂團所演奏的,是由德拉馬志柯利和巴托的兒子彼得・巴托改編而成的新版本。今次帶領樂團的是出生於盧森堡的德國指揮家凱默,對於是次擔任獨奏部份的首席中提琴家凌顯祐,凱默是個堅實的後盾。儘管凌顯祐在演奏複雜的樂曲時都表現得自信滿滿,例如第一樂章中那帶有雙停頓的半音階和第三樂章開首時那狂野奔放的八度跳,但是,若然他能夠舖排得更好,尤其是在許多的抒情段落中可以減少一些生硬的音調,他將獲得更高的評價。 

Andrew Ling in Bartók’s Viola Concerto. Photo by Ka Lam. Courtesy the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

凱默對法朗克《被詛咒的獵人》(1882年) 的演繹,缺乏了清晰的結構。這首交響詩是關於一位貴族無視安息日而去打獵的故事,開首時的弦樂旋律正正意味著「被詛咒的獵人」漠視了的安息日聖歌誦唱,演奏時卻幾乎被樂團的其他樂聲淹沒,後來銅管聲量趨大,令隨之而來的合奏聽起來同樣顯得渾濁。然而,在最後一節中,那個褻瀆神明的獵人騎在馬上、被惡魔追趕的一幕,那複雜的節奏處理得非常巧妙——這優勢也大大地惠及之後演出的《D小調交響曲》(1888年)。

是次交響曲演出,除了流暢的變換,凱默把開首中非常重要的快慢速交替掌握得恰到好處,他也是一位突出內省時刻的能手,尤其透過尖銳的小快板,這一技能無疑令觀眾忘記了較早時那雜亂無章的英國管獨奏。同樣令人印象深刻的是外部樂章中相當出色的銅管,它從未壓倒其他樂器,更孕育出一種管風琴般的遼亮樂章,想必連法朗克這樣一位傑出的管風琴家也會佩服。法朗克的 D小調曾是貝多芬和柴可夫斯基交響樂的重要競爭對手,但早在約半個世紀前卻在標準曲目中退場。若是次演出編排法朗克的其他一兩部作品取代巴托的協奏曲,不但能更客觀地聽賞這部交響曲,並讓觀眾更能評價法朗克的遺作——真是一個錯失的良機。

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