All posts tagged: Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

Concert Hall, Hong Kong / Cultural Centre / Hong Kong / Jun 29, 2019 / Ernest Wan / Near the end of this 45th anniversary season of the Hong Kong Philharmonic, audiences were treated to a Finnish programme, performed by Finnish guest artists, that included the local premiere of the acclaimed Clarinet Concerto (2002) by prominent composer Magnus Lindberg.  Notwithstanding the characteristically sophisticated musical language, the Concerto is eminently accessible. It begins and ends in unambiguous, life-affirming C major, with a folk-like opening melody that recurs several times like an anchor of stability amid more changeable material. The orchestra, led by Osmo Vänskä, featured a large battery of percussion instruments and produced a diverse range of enchanting colours, with solo clarinetist Kari Kriikku’s many tremolo passages adding much to the often shimmering effect. He had worked closely with the composer on the Concerto and given its first performance, and it was a marvel that he played almost non-stop in this 28-minute work with apparent ease, overcoming one hurdle after another along the way, from seemingly endless series of arpeggios to passages employing advanced techniques such as multiphonics …

Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

Concert Hall, Hong Kong Cultural Centre / Hong Kong / Jan 18, 2018 / Ernest Wan / In each of its past three concert seasons, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, under the leadership of music director Jaap van Zweden, has presented one opera from Richard Wagner’s tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen, aka the Ring Cycle. The plaudits that these concerts and the commercial recordings made of them have received meant there were high expectations for Götterdämmerung (1874), the fourth, longest and toughest work in the cycle. Happily, this final instalment did not disappoint. The orchestra, over a hundred strong, inevitably sometimes overwhelmed the solo singers, with the former just behind the latter on the stage. Daniel Brenna sounded youthful as the hero Siegfried should, but his voice and tone were wanting in power and focus respectively. As Gunther, the ruler of the Gibichung race, Shenyang had a sound that was dark and indistinct in Act One, but thereafter his voice opened up. By contrast, Eric Halfvarson sang with power and authority throughout, in a vivid and often frightening portrayal of the villain Hagen, Gunther’s half-brother. Peter Kálmán’s appearance as …

Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

Concert Hall / Hong Kong Cultural Centre / Apr 22, 2017 / Ernest Wan / Mahler’s Symphony No 6 constituted the bulk of this concert by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra with music director Jaap van Zweden – but the premiere of Conrad Tao’s swallow harbor that preceded it was just as interesting: a work inspired by Hong Kong is a rarity on the programmes of the city’s flagship ensemble. Born in Illinois to Chinese parents, the 22-year-old composer visits Hong Kong infrequently and, as he has said himself, his “portrait” of the city is based on his impressions during a short sojourn at the end of last year. Another influence, according to Tao, is Varèse’s early works, especially Amériques. In swallow harbor, there is no confluence, as one might expect, of western and eastern aesthetics à la Chou Wen-chung, a protégé of Varèse who is the grand dean of Chinese-American composers. Yet, sure enough, it employs a wide array of percussion instruments, begins with a sound incorporating a lion’s roar, from a friction drum, and abounds in fragmentary bursts of timbres and other explosive …

Sound and Space

By John Batten The growing maturity and diversity of Hong Kong’s art scene can be seen in the crossover of visual art and music. Hong Kong is surprisingly well served with international western and Chinese classical-music programming and visiting artists. Itinerant, traditional Chinese opera and music ensembles perform during the city’s festivals, while the city’s western orchestras and music-festival initiatives, by both the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and other musical organisations, offer varied, year-round programmes. One particularly successful example is Premiere Performances, with its annual February chamber-music festival and stimulating programming throughout the year. Similarly, the New Music Ensemble promotes modern and contemporary music through its own festival and performances. In early 2015 the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra faced criticism for its conservative repertoire that season. Audiences have shown plenty of support for contemporary music and ambitious musical presentations, reflected in the more adventurous repertoire of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, and although the Philharmonic came up with a more adventurous programme for 2016, it could still find its claims for residency at the new …